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Full text of "From the cotton field to the cotton mill : a study of the industrial transition in North Carolina"

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FROM THE COTTON FIELD 
TO THE COTTON MILL 

A STUDY OF 

THE INDUSTRIAL TRANSITION 

IN NORTH CAROLINA 



BY 



HOLLAND THOMPSON, A.M. 

SOMETIME FELLOW IN POLITICAL ECONOMY, COLUMBIA 

UNIVERSITY ; INSTRUCTOR IN HISTORY, THE 

COLLEGE OP THE CITY OF NEW YORK 



Submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for 

the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in the Faculty 

of Political Science, Columbia University 



NEW YORK 
1906 



COPTEIQHT, 1906, 

By the MACMILLAN COMPANY. 



Set up and electrotyped. Published June, igo6. 



Nortooolt iPrega 

J. S. Cushing & Co. — Berwick & Smith Co. 

Norwood, Mass., U.S.A. 



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FROM THE COTTON FIELD TO THE 
COTTON MILL 



CD 



PREFACE 

The author has spent the greater part of 
his life in the section described. While liv- 
ing in a rapidly growing mill town ten years 
ago, the sight of scores of wagons transferring 
scanty household goods from farmhouses to 
factory tenements awakened his interest in 
the sudden transformation of farmers into 
factory operatives. 

His interest in the problem has cost much 
time and trouble. He has read everything 
available upon the subject, has sifted and 
compared dozens of statistical tables, and has 
compiled others. He has visited many mills, 
has talked with dozens of mill owners, man- 
agers, superintendents, overseers, and opera- 
tives. The children in the mill, at school or 
upon the streets, and the parents at home 



VI PEEFACE 

have not been overlooked. The teachers, 
ministers, and church workers in the mill 
villages have helped. The business men, the 
officers of the law, the farmers, and the 
laborers, black and white, all have added 
something. 

Removal from the state gave the oppor- 
tunity of visiting similar manufacturing es- 
tablishments in other states, and has also 
afforded perhaps a truer perspective. How- 
ever, a part of every year has been spent in 
North Carolina, and impressions and opinions 
have been tested by time, the great touch- 
stone of truth. 

Greater hesitation in delivering final judg- 
ments has followed increasing knowledge. 
The interpretation of the life of a people is 
no slight undertaking. The author cannot 
speak so confidently as he would have done 
five years ago. Many phenomena, apparently 
permanent, have proved to be transient, and 
unexpected elements have increased the com- 
plications. At least he has written the truth 



PREFACE Vll 

as the truth appears after studying the prob- 
lem for ten years. 

While the study has been confined to North 
Carolina, much is equally applicable to other 
Southern states. Repetition has been unavoid- 
able, since different phases of the problem 
have been taken up in turn. Every effort to 
eliminate the unessential has been made, how- 
ever, and many paragraphs might easily be 
extended into chapters. 

The list of those who have given assistance 
is so long that separate credit is impossible. 
Especial thanks are due to F. L. Robbins, Esq., 
of Salisbury, North Carolina. His knowledge 
and experience guarantee the correctness of 
the technical chapters, and his sympathy and 
insight have been valuable. 

HOLLAND THOMPSON. 

TowNSEND Harris Hall, 
AprU, 1906. 



CONTENTS 

CHAPTER PAOB 

I. The Problem 1 

11. The State and its People .... 16 

III. Domestic Manufactures and the Begin- 

ning OF THE Textile Industry . . 37 

IV. The GRqwTH since 1861 .... 55 
V. The Present State of the Industry . 74 

VI. The Real Factory Operative ... 96 

VII. The Operatives at Work .... 118 

VIII. Wages and Cost of Living .... 137 
IX. Social Life and Agencies for Social 

Betterment 162 

X. The Development of a Class Conscious- 
ness 182 

XL The Relations of Employer ^and Em- 
ployed 200 

Xn. The Child in the Mill . . . .219 

Xin. The Negro as a Competitor . . . 248 

XTV. Conclusions 269 



FEOM THE COTTON FIELD TO 
THE COTTON MILL 

CHAPTER I 

THE PROBLEM 

When an old state — one of the original 
thirteen — builds almost two hundred cotton 
mills within twenty years, and also enters 
largely into other manufactures, evidently 
a great economic change is indicated. The 
fact that the capital has come chiefly from a 
multitude of small investors within the state, 
makes the change more striking. When, 
with almost imperceptible immigration, from 
150,000 to 200,000 persons are transferred from 
the country — perhaps from the very farms — 
where they and their ancestors have lived for 
more than a century, to live in towns or fac- 
tory villages, and receive their pay in wages 

B 1 



2 FROM COTTON FIELD TO COTTON MILL 

rather than in commodities, the social changes 
must be equally important. 

North Carolina has been and is yet a rural 
state. No city has ever dominated, or even 
influenced, any considerable portion of the 
territory. In 1900 there was not a single 
city with a population of 25,000. There 
were only six towns with iriore than 10,000, 
and only twenty-eight with more than 2500. 
Of a total population of 1,893^810, only 17.9 
per cent, lived in incorporated towns at all, 
no matter how small, compared with 47.1 per 
cent, in the United States as a whole. Only 
Alabama, Mississippi, and Arkansas of the 
Southern states showed a smaller proportion 
of town dwellers. Only 12.1 per cent, gained 
a livelihood by manufacturing or mechanical 
pursuits, while 64.1 per cent, were employed 
in agriculture or fisheries. But these figures 
differ decidedly from those of 1890. Then 
only 13 per cent, lived in towns, 9.6 per cent, 
were engaged in manufacturing, while 69 per 
cent, were engaged in agriculture. Since 1900 



THE PROBLEM 3 

the percentage of those engaged in manufac- 
turing has steadily increased, and the transi- 
tion to an industrial society is well begun. 
The state stands third in the manufacture of 
cotton; the product of the cotton-seed oil 
mills is important; North Carolina furniture 
is shipped to South America and South Africa ; 
and North Carolina tobacco is sold over the 
world. 

The state is being influenced profoundly by 
the transfer of a population by families instead 
of by individuals from the country to the town. 
Now, between an agricultural and an indus- 
trial population are many points of difference. 
The manner of life is unlike; the opinions are 
generally opposed ; the ideals are not the same. 
As yet the division line in North Carolina is 
not sharp and clear. There is no manufac- 
turing section in which agriculture is merely 
subsidiary. Cotton mills are located in more 
than half the counties of the state, and other 
industries are more or less scattered. There is 
no sharply defined operative class, for the 



4 FROM COTTON FIELD TO COTTON MILL 

workers in the mills and factories of North Caro- 
lina were either bom on the farms, or are only 
one generation removed, and the tang of the 
soil still persists. With the making of opera- 
tives and artisans from farmers we have to 
deal. 

Yesterday the mill operatives produced raw 
material for others to fashion; to-day they 
fashion it themselves. They were landowners 
or at least land renters with all the rural 
independence. Now they work at the over- 
seer's nod, and receive their pay in wages 
rather than in products of the soil which they 
have directly created. Instead of living re- 
mote from neighbors, they are crowded into 
factory villages where they may talk from 
house to house. They spend the larger part 
of their waking time within walls, tending com- 
plicated machines instead of working in the 
open air with a few simple tools. In the 
country the work was irregular and an occa- 
sional holiday might be taken without appar- 
ent loss. In the mills loss of wages and the 



THE PROBLEM 5 

displeasure of the overseer follow any depar- 
ture from absolute regularity. The operative 
must work every day and the whole of the day. 

Such a radical change in manner of life 
must affect them physically and mentally. 
They must learn how to live in towns, to 
adapt themselves to their surroundings. The 
children worked on the farms, as they have 
done since farming began, but here they are 
subjected to constant instead of intermit- 
tent demands upon their strength and en- 
durance. The mental activity of all must 
be influenced; a quickening or a deadening 
must follow. 

Their social, religious, and political ideas 
are undergoing change. The gregarious in- 
stinct develops rapidly, and solitude, once 
no hardship, becomes unendurable. The reli- 
gious ideas and organization which served 
the rural inhabitant seem not so satisfactory 
to the factory worker. The church is becom- 
ing alarmed to find that it is losing its hold 
upon the factory population. Political unrest 



6 FROM COTTON FIELD TO COTTON MILL 

is not yet general, but in a few localities 
the workers are slowly becoming conscious 
of themselves. Feeble attempts to organize a 
Socialist propaganda may be seen. The labor 
agitator is at work. 

Those left on the farms are affected by the 
withdrawal of population, a part of which 
goes to the towns for employment in the vari- 
ous industries, and another part to invest its 
capital in trade or manufacturing rather than 
in agriculture. Both the churches and the 
schools feel the loss. Neighborhoods once 
attractive from a social standpoint are now 
lonely. On the other hand, the estabhsh- 
ment of little towns in the fields and woods 
around the widely distributed mills affords 
new markets for farm produce. The wages 
for farm labor — for a long time either sta- 
tionary or decreasing — rise because of the 
increased demand and the smaller supply, 
and improved machinery and more intensive 
farming are necessarily introduced. The 
rural telephone and improved roads, — both 



THE PROBLEM 7 

largely the results of the increased commercial 
and industrial activity, — together with rural 
mail delivery, help to bring the country com- 
munities into closer touch with the outside 
world. 

The negro also is directly affected. The 
increased population and activity in the towns 
make opportunities for a larger number as 
servants or as laborers. Lumbering, or rail- 
way construction and improvement, have 
drawn away others from the farms. Those 
who remain receive larger wages, or may rent 
better farms than was possible before. The 
greater demand for their labor brings about 
greater consideration and greater intolerance. 
Less and less patience is exhibited toward 
the worthless and the indolent. At the same 
time, the faithful and reliable tenant or la- 
borer receives increasing kindness and consid- 
eration. 

The increase of population and wealth in 
the old towns is working many changes. 
Communities which had altered Httle since 



8 FROM COTTON FIELD TO COTTON MILL 

the days of Comwallis are feeling the modem 
mdustrial spirit. ''Business" is being exalted 
to a position heretofore unknown. A type 
of shrewd, calculating, far-sighted business 
man is being developed. The ''Southern 
Yankees" devote themselves exclusively to 
their work and need ask no favors in any con- 
test of commercial strategy. Social lines are 
shifting. Families which have decidedly 
influenced the spirit of the community be- 
come less prominent, unless they take part 
in the new movement. There are signs of 
class distinctions based upon wealth and 
business success. 

The whole attitude of mind has changed 
more during the last fifteen years than in the 
fifty preceding. The Civil War did little 
more than to intensify the convictions pre- 
viously existing. That acute, though often 
unfair, critic of Southern hfe, Judge Tourgee, 
well says, "It modified the form of society 
in the South but not its essential attributes." 
Reconstruction fixed these convictions more 



THE PROBLEM ^ 9 

firmly. Now old prejudices and fixed ideas, 
political and social, show signs of weakening. 
Independent voting is no longer uncommon. 
Only the prominence of the race question 
prevented a greater division upon national 
lines in 1904. A military record no longer 
outweighs all other considerations. Not a 
single member of the present Congress from 
the state was a Confederate soldier. Com- 
mercialism is doing what bayonets could not do. 

The ideal of success is changing. An in- 
creasingly large proportion of the college 
graduates adopt a business career, or go into 
the mills and factories to learn every process 
in spite of the dust and the grime. The state 
is growing more like industrial societies every- 
where. Agricultural societies may show much 
variation, but industrial communities tend more 
toward a type. Nevertheless the influence of the 
old civihzation is felt through the expression of 
the new, and modifies it almost in every detail. 

These are the phenomena with which we 
have to deal. The task of this paper is to 



10 FROM COTTON FIELD TO COTTON MILL 

sketch some of these changes while in process; 
to show how this new industriahsm suddenly- 
introduced is affecting the economic and 
social life of the people. To make a section 
through the state and study all the kaleido- 
scopic relations would require many volumes. 
The most that can be attempted is to give a 
general view, and then to show in some detail 
the hfe of the thousands, suddenly transferred 
from agricultural to industrial employment, 
particularly in cotton, and to study how they 
are adjusting themselves to their new envi- 
ronment. An honest effort to state, calmly 
and dispassionately, actual not fanciful 
conditions will be made. Only incidentally 
will there be any attempt to predict the future 
other than to point out tendencies. That 
must wait for more complete studies. Few 
similar investigations have ever been made, 
and they have dealt, principally, with the 
growth of capital and the rise of the entre- 
preneur, rather than with the development 
of an operative class. 



THE PROBLEM 11 

Studies of other countries or of other sec- 
tions have not dealt with precisely the same 
phenomena. Before the industrial revolu- 
tion, England was already a manufacturing 
country through the thousands of hand looms 
in the weavers' cottages. The factory system 
first brought these operatives together and fur- 
nished power. The first effect was to drive those 
unable to find a place in the new system back 
to the soil already crowded, or to throw them 
upon the parish. In North Carolina increased 
opportunities for profitable employment in 
every line of industry have followed the change. 

The transformation in this state is more 
nearly Hke that in New England seventy- 
five years ago, but still with decided differ- 
ences. In 1810, according to Tench Coxe, 
the value of the textile products of North 
Carolina in the domestic system was greater 
than that of Massachusetts produced by hand 
plus that of the few factories then existing.^ 

* statement of Arts and Manufactures in the United 
States, 1810: N. C, $2,989,140; Mass., $2,219,279. 



12 FROM COTTON FIELD TO COTTON MILL 

North Carolina, induced by considerations 
which will be discussed hereafter, turned her 
activity into other channels, and as a manu- 
facturing state grew less important for half a 
century. Massachusetts, aided by the policy 
of the general government, continued to 
develop along industrial lines. Every im- 
provement in method was adopted. In- 
creasingly expensive and complex machines, 
often bought from the profits from simpler 
types, were installed. The plants grew in 
size and cost, and the amount and propor- 
tion of capital invested in manufacturing 
greatly increased. 

When North CaroHna again entered the 
contest for industrial success, the conditions 
of the problem were different. The industry- 
was firmly established in another section, 
which had the prestige of long-continued suc- 
cess, controlled all the channels of the trade, 
and had a great body of skilled operatives. 
Greater capital was required and competition 
was keener. The state had almost lost the 



THE PROBLEM 13 

traditions of an industrial past and that 
difficult task; the removal of an agricultural 
population by families rather than by individ- 
uals, was to be accomplished. Moreover, the 
influence of the presence of the negro must 
not be underestimated. 

Another factor of the difference which has 
its place, and must not be neglected, even 
in a purely economic study, is the essential 
difference between Northern and Southern 
character and attitude of mind, — a differ- 
ence distinct from any question of an aristo- 
cratic structure of society. What has pro- 
duced these differences need not be discussed 
here. The differences exist. The North and 
the South are two countries with different 
ideals, different prejudices, different stand- 
ards. France and Germany are no more 
unhke than some portions of the United 
States. As a whole, the differences are cer- 
tainly as great as those between England 
and Ireland. Any attempt to form compar- 
isons and judgments without taking into 



14 FROM COTTON FIELD TO COTTON MILL 

consideration these ingrained differences will 
be of slight value. 

Little aid in this study can be had from 
statistics. Complete and accurate figures 
concerning that portion which may be reduced 
to tables cannot be procured. The Census 
Reports do not give those facts which are of 
most interest and value. The Bulletins of 
the Department of Commerce and Labor are 
not broad enough in their scope. The State 
Bureau of Labor and Printing has no power 
to require answers to its inquiries, and its 
funds are so small that canvassers cannot be 
employed. Voluntary answers are the sole de- 
pendence. The questions necessarily are vague 
and general, and even these are often inac- 
curately answered, or are not answered at 
all.* Manifestly no private individual can 
gather full statistics. 

But if figures, accurate at the time of col- 
lection, were secured, they would be obsolete 
almost by the time they were printed. The 

1 Letter from former commissioner. 



THE PEOBLEM 15 

state of the cotton industry, with which we 
shall deal particularly, is dynamic in the 
extreme. New mills are completed, old ones 
are enlarged, product is diversified, new 
machinery is introduced making new wage 
scales, night work is begun or discontinued. 
The surroundings of the little mill in the 
country with a few hundred spindles, and of 
the large establishment in a mill center, vary 
greatly, and the operatives move from one to 
the other with frequency. Further, the life 
of a people cannot be put into columns and 
averaged. That noted statistician, the la- 
mented Professor Mayo-Smith, in fact declared 
that the opinions of trained observers were 
worth more than statistics, in estimating the 
relative welfare of different communities. 

Yet underneath all the diversity there are 
constant factors, tendencies strongly marked, 
which may be described and analyzed if one 
studies the people as well as the material 
facts. We may be able to say "how" even 
if we cannot say "how much." 



CHAPTER II 

THE STATE AND ITS PEOPLE 

Though the first attempts to plant Eng- 
lish settlements within the limits of the United 
States were made upon North Carolina soil, 
following the exploring expeditions sent out 
by Sir Walter Ralegh in 1584, their failure 
left the country long unoccupied. Meanwhile 
the Virginia settlements were spreading. 
Soon after 1650 straggling pioneers, induced 
by the desire for the rich land along the east- 
em streams, began to come within the present 
limits of the state. The old belief that these 
early settlers were driven by religious perse- 
cution to seek new homes, seems to have 
little foundation.* 

In 1663 a charter for Carolina was issued 

* See the careful researches of Weeks, " Southern Quakers 
and Slavery," J. H. U. Studies, extra volume, xv. 

16 



THE STATE AND ITS PEOPLE 17 

by Charles II to eight Lords Proprietors. 
Their territory was extended and their power 
confirmed two years later. All the privileges 
and powers pertaining to the bishopric of 
Durham were granted, and the Proprietors 
attempted to form a province modeled upon 
the County Palatine of Durham. The cele- 
brated Fundamental Constitutions contem- 
plated the establishment of a European feudal 
system, with orders of nobihty, commons, and 
slaves, in a new country so thinly settled that 
it can hardly be said to have been settled at 
all. 

The story of the failure is long and need 
not be told in detail. When the Crown again 
took control in 1729, the province had been 
divided into North and South Carolina and 
settlements had been made along the sounds 
and streams of the eastern section. Eng- 
lishmen from Virginia, from Barbados, settlers 
direct from the mother country, German 
Palatines, Swiss, French Huguenots, and a 
few New Englanders made up a population 



18 FROM COTTON FIELD TO COTTON MILL 

amounting possibly to 30,000 whites and 
6000 negroes/ Some large tracts of land had 
been granted, and there was already the 
beginning of a plantation system which in- 
creased in importance with the years. With 
all the mixture of nationality, however, Enghsh 
ideas and ideals were dominant. 

Estates were never so large as in Virginia 
or in South CaroUna. With a few exceptions, 
660 acres was the largest grant made by the 
Proprietors, and 640 was more common. This 
policy was in striking contrast to their course in 
South Carolina. When the Crown assumed 
control, the pohcy of small grants was con- 
tinued, though a few large tracts were granted 
for speculative purposes.^ As a result. North 
Carolina became a province of small planters 
and farmers, compared with her neighbors. 

While such settlers were filling up the East, 
and adventurous individuals were making 
their way up the streams toward the West, 

' Raper, " North Carolina " (1904). 
2 Ibid., pp. 108, 109, 118. 



THE STATE AND ITS PEOPLE 19 

pioneers of another type occupied that sec- 
tion. Soon after 1830 wagon trains from 
Pennsylvania came down through the Shen- 
andoah valley and settled upon the broad 
stretch of territory included in the valleys 
of the Catawba and the Yadkin. These were 
immigrants or the children of immigrants 
from the North of Ireland, the so-called 
''Scotch-Irish" who did so much to subdue 
western Pennsylvania. 

When they began to feel crowded there, 
the overflow followed the foothills of the Alle- 
ghanies, and the western sections of Virginia, 
North Carolina, South Carolina, and west- 
ern Georgia received a valuable population. 
Others landed at Charleston instead of Phila- 
delphia, followed the rivers toward the north- 
west and met the southern current along 
the Yadkin. Stern, adventurous, religious, 
they made ideal pioneers, and from them 
developed that sturdy, independent middle 
class which helped to give North Carolina its 
peculiar characteristics. 



20 FROM COTTON FIELD TO COTTON MILL 

Their occupancy of the wide territory was 
soon shared by Germans, also coming chiefly 
from Pennsylvania, though some landed at 
Charleston and joined their countrymen in 
what are now the counties of Davidson, Rowan, 
Cabarrus, Mecklenburg, Gaston, Lincoln, 
Catawba, and Iredell. About 1750 a colony 
of the Unitas Fratrum, better known as Mora- 
vians, bought a large tract of land around the 
present town of Winston-Salem. This they 
held in common, and urged on by religious 
zeal made great improvements. Small colo- 
nies from the back counties of Virginia and 
from Maryland also made settlements along 
the Yadkin, and a strong Quaker influx occu- 
pied the present counties of Randolph, Chat- 
ham, Alamance, Surry, and Guilford. 

After the battle of CuUoden in 1746, Scotch 
Highlanders came to Wilmington and ascended 
the Cape Fear River to Cross Creek, the pres- 
ent town of Fayetteville. From this nucleus 
they spread over a half dozen counties, where 
few except Scotch names are heard to-day. 



THE STATE AND ITS PEOPLE 21 

During the Civil War, whole companies of 
''Macs" were enlisted. A colony of Irish 
direct from Ulster had been planted in the 
neighboring county of Duplin in 1730/ 

Further, in few cases did these different 
nationalities locate upon the same territory 
where association might wear away charac- 
teristic peculiarities. The "consciousness of 
kind" was strong enough to segregate those 
of the same language, religion, and habit of 
mind. There was little communication be- 
tween the different settlements, and definite 
characteristics of the eighteenth century per- 
sisted until late in the nineteenth. 

In one county the distinction between the 
German and the Scotch-Irish has disappeared 
only within the twenty-five years just past. 
The jealousy between the ''Dutch" and the 
"Irish" side was strong, and there was little 
association and less intermarriage. Idioms 
and expressions heard frequently in one part 
of the county were hardly intelligible in the 

1 Hanna, "The Scotch-Irish " (1902). 



22 FROM COTTON FIELD TO COTTON MILL 

other. Culinary processes were different. The 
location of the courthouse, or the struggle 
for county officers, might be the occasion for 
a bitter contest. 

If there was Httle communication between 
the different neighborhoods, there was less 
between the sections of the state. In the 
East were large, rich plantations upon the 
sounds and confluent creeks and rivers. 
Communication here was easy, as few points 
are more than five miles from water. Along 
with the large landowners were individuals 
to whom the much-abused term '^poor whites" 
might be applied with more or less accuracy. 
Fish, oysters, wild fowl, and game were plen- 
tiful ; the land was rich, and the procuring of 
a bare subsistence was too easy to require 
much work. To-day it is estimated that 
two months' work in every year will enable 
a family to hve with some degree of comfort. 

During the colonial period, English ideas 
governed this section as they did in Virginia. 
Even to-day those counties north of the 



THE STATE AND ITS PEOPLE 23 

Roanoke River belong to Virginia rather than 
to North CaroHna. Pieces of old English 
furniture and bits of English china and silver 
are to-day treasured heirlooms. 

Back of the rich alluvial lands were the 
pine barrens to which the thriftless were 
gradually driven by the inexorable working 
of economic law. Until, with the develop- 
ment of the refrigerator car, it was discovered 
that this region would bring large returns in 
the trucking industry, the land was of Httle 
value except for the pine forests, which have 
been ruthlessly destroyed by the demand for 
turpentine and naval stores. 

Back of this section, in the rolling Pied- 
mont country, in the district around Hillsboro, 
German, English, and Scotch-Irish were set- 
tled, and behind them were the settlements 
already mentioned. The land was hilly, and, 
except upon the streams, not rich, though 
susceptible of high development through 
scientific agriculture. Intensive culture was 
demanded and not a great plantation system. 



24 FROM COTTON FIELD TO COTTON MILL 

The extreme West, the mountainous region, 
was settled slowly, partly by the shiftless 
and incapable whom the economic pressure 
of population forces toward the free land, 
partly by the bold and adventurous spirits 
of whom Daniel Boone was a type. Such 
men, intoxicated by the sense of freedom 
growing out of their mastery of the forest, 
find the proximity of any neighbors unpleas- 
ant and go on to seek new lands. The diffi- 
culties of communication have kept that 
section more or less primitive to the present 
day, and it need not be considered as an in- 
dustrial factor. 

In 1790 these middle and western counties 
were almost self-sufficient. Land was plenty 
and cheap. Food was abundant, though 
from lack of markets there was little encour- 
agement to raise more than could be con- 
sumed locally. The streams were not navi- 
gable, and the rough, hilly roads made trans- 
portation by wagon difficult and expensive. 
Each year wagon trains went to Philadelphia 



THE STATE AND ITS PEOPLE 25 

or Charleston, and later to Fayetteville and 
Cheraw ; but only wares of small weight and 
considerable value could be hauled. 

The domestic industries, which will be 
discussed more fully in another place, flour- 
ished. Though there were no towns of any 
size, the number and the skill of the artisans 
was such that, in 1800, it seemed probable 
that the logical development would be into 
a frugal manufacturing community, rather 
than into an agricultural state. 

By the Constitution of 1776, the inhabitants 
of the Eastern counties (many of which were 
originally only precincts of the first counties) 
had a disproportionate share in the govern- 
ment. To the demands of the West for im- 
provement in transportation and educational 
faciUties, they turned a deaf ear. With them 
both local intercourse and communication 
with the world was easy, and they sent their 
children either to England to be educated, or 
to the Northern colleges already established. 

Naturally, bitter jealousy and antagonism. 



26 FROM COTTON FIELD TO COTTON MILL 

which are not yet entirely gone, grew up 
between the East and the West. The inhab- 
itants were different in descent, in rehgion, 
and in habits of thought. The physical dif- 
ferences in territory fostered differences in 
social and economic organization which em- 
phasized the distinctions already existing. 

The Western section began to strive for 
the estabhshment of new counties, hoping 
thus to gain its ends. Sometimes the crea- 
tion of new counties seemed to become an end 
in itself rather than a means. The whole 
legislative history of the state for fifty years 
is largely comprised in this struggle between 
the East and the West. All great questions 
were pushed aside for the engrossing dispute. 
Meanwhile economic and social interests, 
which might have been promoted by wise 
legislation, languished. 

Except in the East, the feeling against 
slavery was strong during the first quarter 
of the nineteenth century. The Manumis- 
sion Society was founded in 1816 and the 



THE STATE AND ITS PEOPLE 27 

name changed to the Manumission and Colo- 
nization Society the next year. Many abo- 
htion societies were also organized. At the 
meeting of the Manumission Society in 1825, 
36 branches were reported, and in 1826 there 
were 1600 active members, many of them 
slaveholders. The Nat Turner slave insurrec- 
tion of 1831, the growth of abolition societies 
in the North, and economic changes making 
slavery more profitable caused the dissolution 
of the society, and no meetings were held 
after 1834.' 

The Western counties were also greatly 
affected by the increasing importance of cotton, 
and the number of slaves grew rapidly. On 
the Southern border where cotton was a prof- 
itable crop, and also in the rich river valleys 
farther north, a plantation system developed. 
A study of population figures indicates clearly 
these changes. 

In 1790 the population of the West was: 
whites 136,655; slaves 30,068; while in the 

1 Weeks, op. cit. 



28 FROM COTTON FIELD TO COTTON MILL 

East there were 151,549 whites and 70,508 
slaves. In 1860 the white population of the 
West was 385,724 and the number of slaves 
146,463; while in the East there were 244,218 
whites and 184,596 slaves. 

Thus the white population of the East 
had increased 61 per cent, in seventy years 
while its slave population had increased 162 
per cent. The white population of the West 
had increased 182 per cent, and its slave 
population 387 per cent, during the same 
period. Obviously, the West was the grow- 
ing section both in whites and slaves. Fur- 
ther, though the actual number of slaves in 
the West never equaled the number in the 
East, the rate of increase was much greater. 
The proportion of slaves to whites in the West 
never reached the proportion in the East, 
however. In 1860 the slave population of 
the West was 38 per cent, of the white, while 
in the East it was more than 75 per cent. 
Counting five persons to the family, it appears 
that there were for every white family in the 



THE STATE AND ITS PEOPLE 29 

West 1.9 slaveS; while in the East there were 
3.83 slaves.' 

One consequence of the extension of slavery- 
was the emigration of thousands of the small 
farmers. Tennessee was settled from North 
Carohna. With the development of the 
Northwest Territory, that section received 
large additions, chiefly of those to whom 
slavery was obnoxious. The New Garden 
Monthly Meeting (Quaker) between 1801 and 
1866 issued 245 certificates to individuals 
and famihes going to Ohio and Indiana. In 
the latter state one finds names of streams 
and townships directly transferred from North 
Carolina. It is estimated by Quaker his- 
torians that in 1850 one third of the popu- 
lation of Indiana was composed of North 
Carolinians and their children.^ 

There was also a strong current toward 
the Southwest. Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, 

1 Consult Bassett, " History of Slavery in North Carolina, " 
J. H. U. Studies, 1899. 

^ Weeks, op. cit. See also Marryat, " Diary in America " 
(1839), p. 143. 



30 FROM COTTON FIELD TO COTTON MILL 

and Louisiana gained many settlers. Younger 
sons of slaveholders, taking a few slaves 
with them, or non-slave holders, made their 
way into that region where fertile lands might 
be had at nominal prices, and developed 
larger plantations than they had left. In 
1855, 28 per cent, of the students of the Uni- 
versity of North Carolina were from other 
Southern states, and in 1859, 39 per cent, of the 
students were from without the state, chiefly 
the sons of expatriated North Carolinians. 

The emigration was at its height between 
1830 and 1840. During that decade the 
white population of the state increased only 
2.54 per cent, compared with 12.79 per cent, 
for the preceding period. There was no coun- 
tercurrent of immigration to replace the loss. 
There has been no considerable addition of 
foreign population since the Revolution. In 
1900 the proportion of the population bom 
abroad was less than one half of one per cent., 
the smallest in the Union. As a result of 
this drain, the relative rank of the state in 



THE STATE AND ITS PEOPLE 31 

population declined from third in 1790 to 
twelfth in 1860. In 1900, 329,625 natives 
of the state were living in other states, while 
only 83,373 natives of other states had come 
in to take the place of the emigrants. 

The migration to other states left large 
tracts of vacant land, and the state became 
more distinctly agricultural. The old manu- 
facturing was incidental to agriculture, and 
the opening of railroad communication in 
the West after 1850 found other states ready 
to supply manufactured articles more cheaply 
than the local workmen could do. Though 
the cotton and tobacco manufacture slowly 
increased, the home industry was, as a whole, 
distinctly less successful. 

The agriculture viewed by present stand- 
ards seems wasteful. Since land was so 
abundant and so cheap, the usual plan was 
to work it until exhausted and then 'Hum it 
out" to be restored by the slow process of 
nature, the growth and the decay of vege- 
tation. One may find to-day in tracts grown 



32 FROM COTTON FIELD TO COTTON MILL 

up with ^'old field" pine and sassafras the 
traces of corn or cotton ridges from which 
the last crop was harvested fifty years ago. 
Agriculture became more and more a matter 
of a few staple crops, and these the same 
which were grown to greater advantage in 
the new lands of the Western states, or by 
great gangs of slaves on the rich fields of the 
Southwest. 

Educationally, the state did something. 
The Constitution of 1776 provided that ''all 
useful learning shall be duly encouraged in 
one or more universities." The University 
of North Carolina, the second of the state uni- 
versities, chartered in 1789, has a long and 
honorable history. Later the leading reli- 
gious denominations each established a college. 
But the idea that universal education was 
one of the functions of the state was slov7 to 
develop, and the percentage of illiteracy grew 
to be the highest of the states. 

A small fund for public education was 
created in 1825. A large part of the surplus 



THE STATE AND ITS PEOPLE 33 

distributed by Congress in 1836 was turned 
into this fund, and in 1840 a state system of 
public schools was instituted. In this year 
14,937 children attended, but the number 
grew by 1850 to 104,095, a number equal to 
five ninths of the white population between 
six and twenty-one years of age. The 
schools grew in popularity and efficiency, and 
two more decades of uninterrupted existence 
would have shown a great impression upon 
the mass of illiteracy.^ Since the wreck of 
the Civil War the educational progress has 
been marked. The public schools receive 
each year a larger proportion of the taxes. 
The colleges have grown in students and in 
equipment. Normal and technical schools for 
both races have been established. Institu- 
tions for the defective and unfortunate have 
been improved, but the burden of illiteracy 
is still tremendous. 
Upon the Puritanism of the Scotch-Irish 

lU. S. Census, 1850-1860, and Ingle, "Southern Side 
Lights" (1896). 



34 FROM COTTON FIELD TO COTTON MILL 

has been grafted religious emotionalism. After 
the Revolution, French atheistic writers made 
a certain sort of materialistic philosophy- 
fashionable; but the great revival of rehgion 
at the beginning of the nineteenth century- 
swept the coimtry. Camp meetings lasting 
for weeks and the discussion of abstract the- 
ological questions went on together. Com- 
munities and families have been rent by the 
excitement growing out of ecclesiastical dis- 
putes and debates. 

Conflicting influences have hindered the 
progress of the state. Sectional jealousies 
have prevented concerted action, and yet 
there has been surprising unanimity upon 
great questions. The state has been con- 
servative and slow, yet has led, rashly some- 
times, in many things; it has been prosaic, 
yet capable of exhibitions of sentiment and 
enthusiasm beyond the ordinary. 

The whole history has been a series of para- 
doxes. Restless under government imposed 
from without, it was quiet when the laws 



THE STATE AND ITS PEOPLE 35 

were suspended. So penurious that every 
Royal governor complained bitterly of his 
difficulties, the province built a palace for 
the governor which was pronounced the hand- 
somest building upon the Western hemisphere. 
It was the first province to declare itself inde- 
pendent of Great Britain, and yet the twelfth 
to enter the Union. 

When the whole expenses of the state 
government were $96,000 a year, the legis- 
lature appropriated $30,000 to buy a statue 
of Washington by Canova. In 1848, under 
the influence of Miss Dorothea Dix, a sum 
larger than the whole yearly income of the 
state was appropriated to build an asylum for 
the insane. The policy of internal improve- 
ments was unpopular, yet the state subscribed 
two of the three million dollars required to 
build the North Carolina Railroad. 

A majority of the voters in 1860 opposed 
secession, and the question even of holding a 
convention was defeated as late as February 
28, 1861. Not until forced to choose between 



36 FEOM COTTON FIELD TO COTTON MILL 

fighting the North or the South was the ordi- 
nance of secession passed, May 20, 1861. 
When once engaged, the state furnished one 
fifth of the soldiers in the Confederate armies 
and strained all her energies to carry the 
struggle to a successful conclusion. 

This is the state and these are the people 
who are now living in decades, whole centuries, 
of economic development. 



CHAPTER III 

DOMESTIC MANUFACTURES AND THE BEGIN- 
NING OF THE TEXTILE INDUSTRY 



The idea so industriously fostered that 
the settlers in the South were destitute of 
mechanical ability is entirely erroneous. The 
Scotch-Irish and the German immigrants 
brought their trades with them, and among 
the Moravians were artisans of every sort. 
The Huguenots and the Swiss included many 
skilled workmen. There was need. Euro- 
pean goods were expensive and difficult to 
procure. The settlers had few products of their 
own sufficiently valuable to pay the cost of 
transportation even to the seacoast, to say 
nothing of the trip across the Atlantic. What 
could not be made locally must be foregone. 

Take, for example, a house back from the 
seacoast. It was built of logs during the 

37 



38 FROM COTTON FIELD TO COTTON MILL 

early years, with the floor of other logs split 
in half or even of clay. The open spaces 
between the logs in the walls were filled by 
poles and clay. The chimneys were of stone 
at the bottom, with flues of small poles daubed 
inside with clay. All hinges and fastenings 
were of wood. The iron pots in the fireplace 
and the coarse dishes upon the table were 
brought from Pennsylvania, but the rude 
furniture was made upon the spot. Later, 
in some neighborhoods, brick or stone houses 
supplanted the logs before the introduction 
of sawmills. Boards were hewn or sawn 
by hand from the trees. Mecklenburg County 
was prosperous, and the citizens were intel- 
ligent ; but the first steam sawmill was not 
established until after 1850.^ 

When the first hardships of pioneer days 
were overcome and wants multiplied, a great 
variety of small industries sprang up in every 
neighborhood. Spinning wheels, made by local 
workmen, spun wool, cotton, and flax, which 

^Alexander, "History of Mecklenburg County" (1902). 



DOMESTIC MANUFACTUEES 39 

looms, also made in the neighborhood, con- 
verted into cloth. Various goods were made 
from these three materials singly or in com- 
bination. Dyes from the fields and woods 
added a pleasing variety. Bedspreads and 
rag carpets of wonderful design were woven. 
Speaking from personal knowledge of the 
twenty years before the Civil War, an old man 
says : — 

" Almost every family had their own loom, wheel, 
and cards for every two female members of the family, 
white and black. Sewing thread was also spun, doubled, 
and twisted upon the spinning wheel at home. Only 
for very fine goods was spool thread bought. . . . 

"Negro women spent all their time when not em- 
ployed in making or gathering the crops, in spinning 
and weaving cloth to make their clothes or bedding, or 
clothes for members of the white family. 

" A generation or two ago women took a delight in 
showing each other their fine handiwork. They knit 
most beautiful hoods and shawls. . . . All the cloth- 
ing was made at home except wedding outfits, or for 
extra occasions. All the footwear was home made." ^ 

Hats were made from fur, wool, or braided 

^Alexander, " History of Mecklenburg County" (1902). 



40 FROM COTTON FIELD TO COTTON MILL 

straw. The most influential man in the state 
in 1831, Nathaniel Macon, who had been presi- 
dent of the United States Senate, wore at a 
public gathering a suit of homespun, and a 
hat which his overseer's wife had made for 
him.* Of course, it was perhaps uncommon 
for a man of Mr. Macon's prominence to dress 
in homespun. The wealthier planters, par- 
ticularly in the East, bought expensive broad- 
cloth, silks, etc. ; but even to-day, in the more 
remote sections, homespun is yet worn, rag 
carpets are woven, and the old women have 
not yet lost their skill at the loom. 

Hides were tanned; boots, shoes, harnesses, 
were made by the farmer himself or by local 
workmen in exchange for meal or meat. In 
1810, in the number of hides tanned, the state 
ranked fourth, and the art has never been lost. 
Even to-day many farmers mend the shoes 
for their families and make a part of the harness 
for the work animals upon the farms. 

^ Creecy, "Grandfather's Tales of North Carolina His- 
tory" (1901). 



DOMESTIC MANUFACTURES 41 

Some degree of skill in woodworking was 

attained very early. Furniture was made 

of oak, ash, cherry, black walnut, as well as 

the omnipresent pine. Chairs with seats of 

withes, rushes, or leather are yet made, though 

in recent years the cheapness of the factory 

product has practically superseded hand 

work. Baskets of every kind were made, 

and even yet the hampers used in cotton 

picking are the handiwork of some decrepit 

or crippled negro who preserves the old craft. 

Wagon makers built the heavy road wagons 

and lighter carriages, the latter not without 

some degree of elegance. 

" Mr. H made vehicles upon honor. If he sold 

a buggy and harness, he would warrant it to stand 
three years ; but he would charge from $ 150 to $ 200. 
His buggies were known to last, with ordinary care, 
from ten to fifteen years." ^ 

Farming implements were made, including 
gins, gin presses, and the heavy wooden cog 
wheels for the transmission of power. On the 
old plantations the t*'''" gin machinery 

'Alexander, "History d County" (1902). 



42 FROM COTTON FIELD TO COTTON MILL 

may yet be seen. Flails, fanning machines 
for cleaning grain, water wheels for saw or 
grist mills, were all made within the state. 
The cooperage establishments turned out 
buckets, barrels, vats, and firkins. 

Bar iron from a local ''bloomery" or per- 
haps ''Sweet" (Swede) iron brought from 
Philadelphia furnished the material for nails, 
cut or forged by hand, horseshoes, plows, 
wagon tires, grain scythes, hinges, locks, etc. 
Near Lincolnton, after about 1822, was an 
ax 'factory, the product of which was widely 
sought on account of its excellence. In 1800 
at High Shoals there were a rolling mill and 
shops which turned out various products 
from wrought iron, including bars, nails, 
plowshares, etc.^ There were also establish- 
ments which made hollow ware, i.e. pots, 
kettles, etc. Tench Coxe in 1810 ranked the 
state second only to New Jersey in the 
number of ''bloomeries." 

Much machinery for the early cotton mills 

» Tompkins, pamphlet (1902). 



DOMESTIC MANUFACTURES 43 

was made by the local blacksmiths. They 
were important men in the community and 
often grew prosperous. Some invested their 
savings in land and with the development of 
the state grew to be the holders of large and 
valuable estates. Their sons often went to 
college and became prominent planters or 
professional men. 

By the streams where the clay was found 
to be particularly tenacious and smooth, 
pottery works were established. Little if 
any table ware was made, but crocks for the 
dairy, jars for household purposes, and jugs 
were made in abundance. The surplus be- 
yond the neighborhood demand was peddled 
from wagons which visited the country stores 
or the individual buyers. Many of these little 
establishments endure to the present day, 
and the figure of the potter's wheel is intel- 
ligible to thousands who have seen the fash- 
ioning of the clay. The statistics for 1810 
already mentioned ^ show many other indus- 
»p. 11. 



44 FROM COTTON FIELD TO COTTON MILL 

tries. There were eight manufactories of gun- 
powder, and two salt works. Six thousand 
pounds of paper were made in this year and 
rope walks were in operation. The distilling 
of ardent spirits was an important industry, 
and in the production of turpentine and 
varnish the state easily led. In the value 
of all manufactures, the state ranked seventh. 
This rank in manufacturing was lost with 
the succeeding decades as agriculture assumed 
greater importance. In the East, where there 
was more wealth, and communication with 
the outside world was easier, reliance upon 
foreign goods became more pronounced; but 
until 1850 it is safe to say that a majority 
of the people in the Middle and Western coun- 
ties dressed chiefly in clothes of domestic or 
local manufacture, lived in houses furnished 
by the local cabinetmaker, rode in vehicles 
made within the state, and used implements 
made in the neighborhood. 



DOMESTIC MANUFACTURES 45 

I 
II 

The first cotton mill in North Carolina and 
one of the first south of the Potomac was 
built about 1813, on a small stream near Lin- 
colnton, which is now a considerable manu- 
facturing town. Lincoln County had been 
settled principally by Germans, Scotch-Irish, 
and Swiss, many of whom had mechanical 
abihty. Michael Schenck, a native of Lan- 
caster County, Pennsylvania, who had pros- 
pered in his new home, determined to build a 
mill. Some of the machinery was purchased 
in Providence, Rhode Island, and was hauled 
by wagon from Philadelphia. Other parts 
were made by Schenck's brother-in-law, a 
skilled worker in iron. The first dam did 
not hold and it was necessary to rebuild it 
lower down the creek. A contract with a local 
workman for the construction of additional 
machinery is in the possession of one of the 
Schencks' descendants. It reads as follows :^ — 

1 Schenck, " Historical Sketch of the Schenck and Bivens 
Families" (1884). 



46 FROM COTTON FIELD TO COTTON MILL 

" Articles of agreement, made and entered this 27th. 
day of April 1816, between Michael Schenck & Abra- 
ham Warlick of the County of Lincoln and State of 
North Carolina, of the one part, and Michael Beam, of 
the county and state aforesaid, of the other part wit- 
nesseth ; that the said Michael Beam obliges himself 
to build for the said Schenck & Warlick, within twelve 
months of this date, a spinning machine with one 
hundred and forty-four fliers with three sets of flooted 
rollers, the back set to be of wood, the other two sets 
to be of iron ; the machine to be made in two frames 
with two sets of wheels; one carding machine with 
two sets of cards to run two ropings each to be one 
foot wide, with a picking machine to be attached to it 
with as many saws as may be necessary to feed the 
carding machine; one rolling (sic) with four heads. 
All the above machinery to be complete in a workman- 
like manner. And the said Beam is to board himself 
and find all the materials for the machine and set the 
machinery going on a branch on Ab. Warlick's land 
below where the old machine stood ; The said Schenck 
and Warlick are to have the house for the machine and 
running gears made at their expense, but said Beam 
is to fix the whole machinery above described thereto ; 
the wooden cans for the roping and spinning and the 
reel to be furnished by said Schenck and Warlick ; all 
the straps and bands necessary for the machinery to 
be furnished by said Schenck and Warlick. 

In consideration of which the said Schenck and 



DOMESTIC MANUFACTUEES 47 

Warlick are to pay to said Beam the sum of thirteen 
hundred dollars as follows, to wit: three hundred 
dollars this day, two hundred dollars three months from 
this date, one hundred dollars six months from this 
date, and the balance of the thirteen hundred dollars 
to be paid to the said M. Beam within twelve months 
after said machine is started to spinning. In testimony 
whereof we have hereunto set our hands and seals, the 
day and year above written. 

Absalom Warlick. (seal) 
Test, Michael Schenck. (seal) 

RoBT. H. BuKTON. Michael Beam. (seal) 

The mill was prosperous, and John Hoke and 
James Bivings bought a share in 1819. The 
firm erected a larger mill of three thousand 
spindles, the Lincoln Cotton Factory, on the 
South Fork of the Catawba, about two and a 
half miles south of Lincolnton. Attached to 
this mill was an annex, which made various 
articles from iron. Wagons came from a dis- 
tance of a hundred miles to secure yarn, and 
the mill continued in successful operation until 
burned by an incendiary in 1863. On the site 
the Confederate government erected a labora- 
tory for the manufacture of medicines, and 



48 FROM COTTON FIELD TO COTTON MILL 

twenty years after the war a cotton mill again 
began operations. 

In 1820 Colonel Joel Battle, the grandfather 
of Professor Kemp P. Battle of the University 
of North Carolina, opened the Rocky Mount 
Cotton Mills in Edgecombe County, with more 
than two thousand spindles. Coarse yarn 
for neighborhood consumption was spun here 
by negroes. Nearly all of them were slaves, 
belonging to the mill owners, or to their neigh- 
bors, though a few free negroes were employed. 
White labor was substituted in 1851.^ The 
mill, though making only twelve to fifteen 
hundred pounds of coarse yam, 4's to 12's, 
daily, was much hampered by lack of a steady 
market. 

Apparently the first application of steam to 
the industry was at the Mount Hecla Mills at 
Greensboro about 1830. The machinery for 
this mill was shipped from Philadelphia to 
Wilmington, then up to Cape Fear River to 
Fayetteville, and was hauled across the coun- 

* See Chapter XIII. 



DOMESTIC MANUFACTURES 49 

try by wagon. When wood for fuel grew 
scarce, the machinery was moved to Mountain 
Island, where it was run by water power. 

Soon after 1830 E. M. Holt, one of the most 
successful manufacturers the state has known, 
built a mill on Alamance Creek. Finding 
difficulty in disposing of all his yarn, he began 
between 1850 and 1860 the manufacture of 
coarse, colored cloth known as "Alamance 
plaids." Success attended the venture and 
the product became more than locally known. 
To-day, throughout central North Carolina, 
"Alamance" is almost universally used as a 
synonym for the coarse ginghams on the shelves 
of the country merchants. Other mills were 
built by him and his sons, and the family is 
prominent in manufacturing at the present 
time. 

In 1840 Francis Fries, a descendant of a 
Moravian minister, who had had some experi- 
ence in cotton manufacturing as agent of the 
Salem Manufacturing Company, began a small 
wool business. To this was added dyeing vats 



50 FROM COTTON FIELD TO COTTON MILL 

to color the cloth woven by the farmers' wives, 
and later spindles and looms were added. 

Other mills had been built during the decade, 
and in 1840 twenty-five establishments were 
reported to be in operation. The total number 
of spindles, however, was only 47,900, with 
700 looms. The number of operatives was 
only 1200, the capital $995,300, and the con- 
sumption of cotton 7000 bales, totals surpassed 
by single establishments at the present day. 

During the next twenty years the number of 
establishments increased, though the spindles 
decreased. In 1860, 39 mills with 41,900 
spindles and 800 looms were reported. The 
consumption of cotton is given as 11,100 bales, 
the capital as $1,272,750, and the number of 
operatives as 1755. It is noteworthy, however, 
that only nine of these establishments were in 
the Eastern counties. The increase in cotton 
consumption is probably due to more regular 
operation. Many of the early mills ran only 
a part of the year. The water power was often 
imperfectly utilized, and the mill was necessarily 



DOMESTIC MANUFACTURES 51 

stopped when the streams were abnormally 
high or low. 

Often the mill was stopped when the neigh- 
borhood demand was satisfied. Commercial 
organization was lacking. Little attempt to 
secure more than a local market seems to have 
been made. Instead of selling the whole prod- 
uct to a distributing agent, each mill was its 
own distributer and depended chiefly upon 
local demand and upon accidental outside con- 
sumers. A third difficulty was the fact that 
the operatives were such only incidentally. 

Upon Deep River in Randolph County, where 
five mills were built before 1850, conditions 
were somewhat peculiar in this respect. These 
mills were in a section where the Quaker in- 
fluence was strong. Slavery was not wide- 
spread and was unpopular. The mills were 
built by stock companies composed of sub- 
stantial citizens of the neighborhood. There 
was little or no prejudice against mill labor as 
such, and the farmers' daughters gladly came 
to work in the mills. They lived at home, walk- 



52 FROM COTTON FIELD TO COTTON MILL 

ing the distance morning and evening, or else 
boarded with some relative or friend near by. 

The mill managers were men of high char- 
acter, who felt themselves to stand in a pa- 
rental relation to the operatives and required 
the observance of decorous conduct. Many 
girls worked to buy trousseaux, others to help 
their families. They lost no caste by working 
in the mills. Twenty years ago throughout 
that section one might find the wives of sub- 
stantial farmers or business men who had 
worked in the mills before the Civil War. 
Some married officials of the mills.^ 

In many localities, however, there was diffi- 
culty in securing the necessary labor, arising 
not so much from the feeling that such labor 
was degrading, as on account of the confine- 
ment and the necessary subordination. The 
people had been accustomed to out-of-door 
life for generations. Life was simple, and dis- 
content with the loneliness of the farms had 

* For somewhat similar conditions in New England in 
the thirties, see Robinson, " Loom and Spindle" (1898). 



DOMESTIC MANUFACTURES 53 

not assumed its present proportions. To work 
indoors seemed too great a sacrifice. 

The spirit of independence was strong in 
the rural population. They felt themselves as 
''good as anybody/' and disliked to take orders. 
They did upon their own farms labor of the 
same sort, and much that was more unpleasant; 
but this was done for themselves. Both men 
and women worked for wages for their more 
prosperous neighbors, but their position was 
not distinctly menial. They were not so much 
working for that neighbor, as they were work- 
ing with him, assisting him and his family. 

Such workers were not considered servants, 
but ate at the family table, and occupied rooms 
in the house. Working in a mill under over- 
seers seemed to many a sacrifice of independ- 
ence, and any curtailment of personal liberty 
was resented. On one occasion, the attempt to 
prevent operatives from looking out of the win- 
dows, by painting the glass, would have re- 
sulted in a general strike but for the restoration 
of the clear glass. 



54 FROM COTTON FIELD TO COTTON MILL 

Further, the large emigration had left many 
vacant farms, and there was abundant room 
for all upon the soil. As the state came more 
and more under the influence of the plantation 
system the ambition of every farmer, however 
small, was to become a planter. To go to the 
mill with the intention of remaining meant 
the definite abandonment of such ambition, 
and few were willing to make that sacrifice. 



CHAPTER IV 

THE GROWTH OF THE INDUSTRY SINCE 1861 

The beginning of the Civil War found the 
state with less than $1,500,000 invested in 
cotton manufacturing, possibly $300,000 in 
wool, and as much in iron. Yearly she was 
growing more dependent upon the North and 
upon Europe, not so much from the decay of 
the industries already existing as from lack 
of their expansion. The home manufactures 
had not kept pace with the increasing wants. 
In some industries they had actually declined. 
"Yankee Notions," in increasing quantities, 
were imported following the increasing reliance 
upon cotton growing. 

Within twelve months after the beginning 
of the war the state became as it had been in 
1810, to a great extent, self-sufficient. The 
cotton, woolen, and leather manufactories were 
taxed to their utmost capacity. Spinning 

55 



56 FROM COTTON FIELD TO COTTON MILL 

wheels and looms which had been retired to 
the attics were again brought into service. 
With the purchase by the state, under direc- 
tion of the great war governor, Z. B. Vance, of 
the steamer Ad-Vance, state direction was 
added to the activity. This boat, which made 
eleven successful trips through the blockade 
before it was captured, brought in many things 
which were sorely needed. Sixty thousand 
pairs of hand cards for preparing cotton and 
wool, machinery for manufacturing shoes, tex- 
tile repairs and supplies, were included in 
the cargoes.^ 

An account of the efforts and expedients of 
the people during that period would make a 
book of intense interest. Nothing was wasted. 
The law forbade the distillation of grain into 
alcoholic beverages. Luxuries were foregone, 
and for every supposed necessity no longer 
procurable a substitute was found. 

^ For an interesting account of state activity, see Gov- 
ernor Vance's article in " History of North Carolina Regi- 
ments," Vol. V (1901), also printed in Dowd, "Life of 
Vance" (1897). 



GROWTH OF THE INDUSTRY SINCE 1861 57 

The cotton manufacturers, in striking con- 
trast to their course elsewhere, did not take 
advantage of the increased demand to pile up 
fortunes for themselves. Almost without ex- 
ception they refused to sell their product to 
speculators. They were usually men of stand- 
ing and influence in their neighborhoods, and 
valued the respect in which they were held. 
The value of pubhc opinion as an economic 
force in the South has never been properly 
estimated. It is a power to-day, and the man 
who demands his pound of flesh from a help- 
less, unfortunate neighbor is censured for his 
harshness, rather than praised for his exact- 
ness. Social aversion makes his position like 
that of the usurer. Some primitive ideas of 
the duties toward neighbors still prevail. 

The course of General W. H. Neal of Meck- 
lenburg County is perhaps typical. He owned 
a Uttle mill, containing only 500 spindles and a 
few looms, which had begun operation in 1850. 
When the demand for yam exceeded the sup- 
ply, he adopted the plan of considering the 



58 FROM COTTON FIELD TO COTTON MILL 

absolute necessities of applicants, rather than 
their desires. The soldiers' widows came first, 
and even his own children were forced to take 
their chances with other applicants. He was 
paid in Confederate money, though speculators 
offered to pay in gold. The fate of this mill 
was that of several others. In 1866 the ma- 
chinery was so worn that further operation was 
unprofitable, and a grist mill took its place. 

When the state was overrun with Federal 
troops, a number of mills were destroyed. 
Among them were the Rocky Mount Mill, 
burned in 1863, and the plant of the Richmond 
Manufacturing Company, which was burned 
by Sherman's army in 1865. This mill, which 
had been in operation since 1833, was rebuilt and 
enlarged in 1869, and has been in successful 
operation ever since. Five mills, in and around 
Fayetteville, were also burned in 1865, by order 
of General Sherman.^ Stoneman's raiders also 
burned the mill at Patterson, Caldwell County. 

* Vance, " Last Days of War in North Carolina," in Dowd, 
" Life of Vance" (1897). 



GKOWTH OF THE INDUSTRY SINCE 1861 59 

The mills which escaped destruction before 
peace was declared were generally in poor con- 
dition. The machinery, tried by the strain of 
years, was worn and much was obsolete. Some 
owners were ruined by emancipation and the 
disarrangement of the whole economic system, 
and had no capital for renewal. The country 
was prostrate, the future was uncertain, and 
the outlook was dark. Some mills, sold at 
auction, brought sums so small that profit- 
able reorganization was possible. Others could 
find no purchasers and were stopped entirely. 
Generally, however, the mills continued to run. 

The high price of cotton, and the develop- 
ment of the tobacco industry, in the years 
immediately following the war, brought some 
money into the state which was almost without 
a medium of exchange. Indeed, the abnormal 
price of cotton as a factor in the recovery of 
the South has not been sufficiently emphasized, 
even though many evils followed in its train. 
Though cotton had been growing steadily more 
important, it had not been the sole crop. On 



60 FROM COTTON FIELD TO COTTON MILL 

every farm and plantation, grain and meat had 
been produced. Now the whole energy was 
turned into cotton growing wherever it was pos- 
sible. The other factors, which also influenced 
this change, will be discussed in another place. 

In 1870 we find enumerated only 33 mills 
with 39,900 spindles and 600 looms. The capi- 
tal invested was $1,030,900, and the consump- 
tion of cotton had dropped to 8500 bales. The 
average number of spindles to the establish- 
ment had risen to 1210 — an advance of nearly 
20 per cent, which would seem to indicate that 
the smaller and less economical estabUshments 
had not survived. 

During the next decade hope began to return. 
The reconstruction government, while cor- 
rupt, was less greedy than in other states. 
Some of those profiting by contracts and bond 
issues invested their gains in industrial enter- 
prises. The great panic of 1873 did not, at 
first, affect the state severely. The state was 
so largely agricultural, so little money was in- 
vested in manufacturing, and there were so 



GROWTH OF THE INDUSTRY SINCE 1861 61 

few banks that the first shock was not severe. 
Later the general depression was felt in the 
price of cotton. The high prices had caused 
the emphasis to be laid upon large, rather than 
upon economical, production. The price de- 
chned almost steadily from 23.98 cents the 
pound in 1870 to 10.38 cents in 1879, due 
partly to increased production but also to de- 
creased demand.^ Farming was less profitable, 
particularly as crops were short for several 
years; money was scarce, but still there was 
less suffering than was experienced in other 
sections. 

During this decade the textile industry in- 
creased. Mills no longer distributed their own 
product, and much yam was shipped from the 
state to be woven elsewhere, though the num- 
ber of looms was tripled. Forty-nine estab- 
lishments with 92,400 spindles and 1800 looms 
were reported in 1880, and the average number 
of spindles to the establishment reached 1890, 
an increase of more than 50 per cent. The 

» Hammond, "The Cotton Industry" (1897). 



62 FROM COTTON FIELD TO COTTON MILL 

capital reported was $2,855,800, and the con- 
sumption of cotton is given as 23,700 bales. 

The best farmers had made money growing 
cotton, and began to invest some of the pro- 
ceeds in cotton manufacturing. New mills 
were built, all of which did not succeed. Some 
managers yielded to offers, tempting on their 
face, to install machinery which had been used 
in New England. Farsighted manufacturers 
there, seeing the possibihty of competition in 
coarser numbers of yarn, began to turn their 
attention to finer yarns, or else wished to take 
advantage of new inventions. Machinery, some 
of it, at least, in good condition, was offered 
at very low prices to the Southern mills. The 
result was generally not satisfactory, and as a 
result a few mills went into bankruptcy. 

Much gratuitous advice was now offered to 
the section. It was gravely announced by 
those interested in preventing manufacturing 
development that the Southern climate was 
not suitable for spinning on account of the 
dryness ; that machinery could not be kept in 



GROWTH OF THE INDUSTRY SINCE 1861 63 

good condition on account of the moisture; 
that labor could not be found at all; that the 
native labor could never attain satisfactory 
skill; that it would be an economic waste to 
draw labor from the production of cotton into 
its manufacture. It was prophesied that the 
necessary managing ability could not be found, 
and capital was warned not to trust itself in 
the hazardous enterprise. Extreme solicitude 
for the savings of the South was also mani- 
fested. 

But the habit of mind of the Southern peo- 
ple was changing. Those who had saved land 
and capital from the wreck of the war, or had 
gained them since, began to tire of the never 
ceasing contest with the inefficiency and un- 
reliability of the freedman. As the older 
negroes who had been trained under the dis- 
cipline of slavery became superannuated, it 
was found difficult to secure efficient laborers. 
The younger negroes preferred to work in gangs 
in the turpentine forests, at railway construc- 
tion, or not to work at all. Hundreds of well- 



64 FROM COTTON FIELD TO COTTON MILL 

to-do farmers, disgusted with the struggle, 
practically abandoned their farms and moved 
to town, there to seek profitable occupation 
and investments. The country merchant also 
began to dream of managing greater enterprises. 

Sometimes they were surprised at their 
success. Commercial and industrial abihty 
was found not so rare as had been supposed. 
As their interests grew, ability to manage them 
was developed. The old idea of comfort — 
Hf e upon a plantation — was no longer un- 
challenged. But more than this, the people 
generally began to be convinced of the proba- 
bility of Southern industrial success. The awe 
of the ingenuity of the thrifty Yankee was no 
longer so pronounced. The people began to be 
wilhng to invest their surplus or savings in 
something other than a land mortgage. 

Under a plan which will be described else- 
where, these savings, individually small, but 
large in the aggregate, were poured into cotton 
manufacturing. Towns in which not a single 
man could be accounted rich even by the modest 



GROWTH OF THE INDUSTRY SINCE 1861 65 

standard prevailing, began to discuss the erec- 
tion of manufacturing establishments. The 
process was not rapid. Inertia, timidity, in- 
experience, were to be overcome ; but after 1890 
the building of mills went on with increasing 
rapidity. The majority were small neighbor- 
hood affairs, but they were profitable. 

The manufacturers of New England generally 
did not reahze the revolution that was taking 
place in Southern life. That section had crippled 
or destroyed industrial enterprises existing in 
the South before the war, and it was difficult 
to believe that there was any menace to her 
supremacy in the textile industry. But the 
new Southern mills were not the same old 
wasteful establishments. New plants were 
built from the profits of the old. The newest 
machinery was installed. The unprofitable' 
ness of second-hand machinery was recognized, 
and only the best was bought. 

The machinery houses began to take great 
interest in the development. Agents were 
sent to encourage building, and favorable terms 



66 FROM COTTON FIELD TO COTTON MILL 

of payment were granted. When sufficient 
capital seemed difficult to secure, the manu- 
facturers of machinery offered to take a part 
of the price of the machinery in stock. 

The statistics for 1890 show plainly the prog- 
ress of the industry. The number of estab- 
hshments was 91, and the number of spindles, 
337,800, was more than three and a half times 
the total of ten years before. The number 
of looms, 7300, was more than four times as 
great. The capital reported as invested was 
$10,775,100, and the consumption of cotton, 
107,100 bales, was nearly a third of the state's 
production. 

With the publication of such statistics the 
attention of the North was fully aroused. The 
statement that the South could not manu- 
facture cotton successfully was no longer 
heard. The march of events had proved 
the falsity of that prophecy. Some Northern 
manufacturers began to erect branch mills 
in the South. Few of these, however, came 
to North Carolina, but were located farther 



GROWTH OF THE INDUSTRY SINCE 1861 67 

south, nearer the center of the cotton belt. 
The state had learned to rely chiefly upon its 
own endeavors, and ceased calling for outside 
capital to develop its resources. 

Not every new mill was advantageously 
located. Nearly every little town in the cen- 
tral or west-central portion of the state built 
a mill or mills. Some were built away from rail- 
roads, sometimes to utihze water power, some- 
times to secure cheap fuel or abundant labor. 
These advantages were often apparent rather 
than real, or at least temporary, or unreliable. 

Profits, however, seemed almost certain. 
Mills, though not always economically managed, 
paid good dividends, and the best were phe- 
nomenally successful, though sometimes at 
the expense of a reserve for depreciation. The 
whole profit, in many cases, was paid to the 
stockholders and nothing was retained to re- 
place worn machinery, nor to provide a reser- 
voir from which dividends might be paid in a 
less profitable season. 

The result, following these large dividends, 



68 FROM COTTON FIELD TO COTTON MILL 

was almost a craze for mill building. Mills 
were too often built to produce those particular 
yams which were most profitable for the moment, 
without due consideration of permanency of 
profit; or the interested advice of some com- 
mission house which made a specialty of certain 
numbers was followed; but as the managers 
have learned more of the business, the tendency 
toward finer numbers has been well marked. 

The statistics given for 1900 illustrate 
the tendency. In 1890 the state produced 
41,972,080 pounds of yam below number 20, 
and only 3,076,558 pounds between number 20 
and number 40. None finer than number 40 
was reported, and the amount above number 
20 was only 7.09 per cent, of the total production 
of the state. In 1900 the proportion was much 
changed. The number of pounds under num- 
ber 20 was 99,021,341, but the amount between 
number 20 and number 40 was 56,527,998, 
while 886,200 pounds of yam finer than num- 
ber 40 were also reported.^ 

» U.S. Census BuUetin 215. 



GKOWTH OF THE INDUSTRY SINCE 1861 69 

Before 1890 the question of satisfactory- 
labor had not been entirely solved. The better 
class of population was not easily drawn from 
the farms to the factories. After 1890 the 
price of cotton, owing to increased production 
both of the domestic staple and of Egyptian 
and Indian, and also to the depression follow- 
ing the panic of 1893, went lower and lower. 
On the bulk of the crops of 1894 and 1895 the 
farmer realized httle more than five cents, 
while much was sold below this low price, 
which was less than the average cost of pro- 
duction. Low prices for tobacco, corn, and 
wheat accompanied the ruinous price of cotton. 

These unprecedentedly low prices of their 
products brought much distress to the farming 
population. Crops brought hardly more than 
fertihzer bills, allowing nothing for labor. 
Live stock brought less than the cost of feed- 
ing, even at the prevailing low prices of hay 
and grain. To secure the cash to pay taxes 
was a difficult problem. Debts incurred when 
times were easier were now a crushing burden. 



70 FROM COTTON FIELD TO COTTON MILL 

A mortgage, once easily carried, was now an 
impossible load. Farms were sacrificed for a 
small part of their supposed value. The pohti- 
cal revolution growing out of the prevaihng 
discontent will be discussed in another place.^ 
Meanwhile the cotton mills seemed the only 
enterprises unaffected by the prevaihng depres- 
sion. The mills were running at their full ca- 
pacity, often both night and day ; were selhng 
their yarns at a profit in Philadelphia, New 
York, and Boston, and were sending cloth 
to the Orient, and a limited quantity to South 
America. To the mill towns turned the dis- 
couraged from the farms, hoping for better 
times in industry than in agriculture. Renters 
and laborers went to those places where there 
was work with money wages for all. Land- 
owners also sought employment. In some 
neighborhoods the movement assumed almost 
the proportions of an exodus. Among the 
migrants were the lazy, the shiftless, and the 
incapable, but there was also, the hard-working, 

» Ch. X. 



GROWTH OF THE INDUSTRY SINCE 1861 71 

honest element, which hoped to better its con- 
dition by industry. 

As new mills were completed they were as 
quickly filled, even though situated out of the 
cotton country. When expenses of moving 
are offered in addition to wages, operatives 
can be drawn from other mills, though careful 
selection cannot always be exercised. The 
mobile labor is usually the unsatisfactory labor. 
Much of this willingness to move is due, how- 
ever, to lack of adjustment to surroundings of 
the population, so lately taken from the soil. 
The new life cramps them at some points, and 
they move in the vain search for the freedom 
of the old, together with the advantage of the 
new. 

With the return of higher prices for agricul- 
tural products, together with certain agencies 
tending to make life in the country more 
attractive, the movement toward the mills 
has become slower. Greater inducements are 
necessary to attract the new material from 
which efficient workers may be made. During 



72 FROM COTTON FIELD TO COTTON MILL 

the summer of 1904 many mills were without 
their full complement of operatives. Wages in 
North Carolina mills have been seldom cut. 
Nearly every advance has been permanent. 
So, in order to avoid formally raising the rate, 
which might be difficult to reduce, should the 
scarcity prove only temporary, some managers 
adopted an ingenious substitute. This was to 
pay the operatives for running more machines 
than could be efficiently operated. For ex- 
ample, a spinner capable of managing four 
*' sides" would be paid for six, though two were 
only nominally in operation. 

Meanwhile the building of new mills had gone 
on rapidly, and the average number of spindles 
also was increased. Mills to spin finer yarn 
and ''specialties" were built, and finer cloth, 
both white and colored, was produced. Here 
again the prophecies from New England, that 
the Southern mills must confine themselves to 
the coarser grades, were disproved. 

Though the trouble in China reduced the 
profits by curtailing the markets of the exist- 



GROWTH OF THE INDUSTRY SINCE 1861 73 

ing mills, the promoters were not frightened. 
The movement reached its climax about 1903, 
when twenty-nine mills were in process of con- 
struction. Since their completion there has 
been a cessation of building activity. The 
market has been glutted at times, partly 
owing to the troubles in the East already 
mentioned; partly to overproduction of cer- 
tain numbers and grades; partly to the de- 
creased demand resulting from higher prices 
of cotton. Mills with established reputations, 
however, have continued to make profits, 
although others have become bankrupt. 



CHAPTER V 

THE PRESENT STATE OF THE INDUSTRY 

The traveler through some parts of North 
CaroHna is seldom out of sight or hearing of 
a cotton mill. The tall chimneys rise beside 
the railway in nearly every town. Side tracks 
from the main line lead to the low brick mills 
and the clustering tenements, set down in 
fields where crops grow almost to the doors, or 
in the forest where a clearing has been made. 

The state has more separate establishments 
than any other. Almost one fourth of the mills 
in the United States are within its borders, 
though in production it is only third. There 
are no great establishments like those in 
Massachusetts, New Hampshire, or even South 
Carolina, which count their spindles by the 
hundred thousand. The largest of the 263 
cotton or woolen mills reported in 1904 has only 
75,000 spindles and about 2000 looms; and 

74 



THE PRESENT STATE OF THE INDUSTRY 75 

this is really two mills more than a mile apart, 
though under the control of the same corpora- 
tion, and the second and larger was built from 
the profits of the first. Some mills are so small 
that successful operation would seem impossible. 
One woolen mill has but 168 spindles and no 
looms, while one cotton mill has only 820 
spindles. The average number of spindles is 
a little over 8000,^ and, if the looms were 
divided, the number to each mill would be 185. 
This number could not possibly consume the 
product of these spindles during dayhght, to 
say nothing of the large production at night. 

Many of these mills, however, have no looms 
at all, but sell the yarn produced. Around 
Philadelphia especially, and to a less extent in 
New England, are many mills which weave only 
and buy their yarn. In such mills the variety 

» 2,178,964 spindles -;- 263 = 8285. 
48,612 looms -f- 263 = 185. 
The discrepancy between the number of establishments re- 
ported by the Census and by the State Bureau is explained 
by the fact that the former reports mills owned by the same 
corporations as one establishment. 



76 FROM COTTON FIELD TO COTTON MILL 

of goods woven and the frequent changes make 
the production of all the numbers and qualities 
unprofitable or impossible. Some of the North 
Carolina mills sell their product to others in the 
neighborhood. Where one family or one inter- 
est controls several mills, one establishment 
has often been built to consume the product 
of another. 

These mills are located in fifty-four of the 
ninety-seven counties of the state, in every 
section from the seashore to the mountains. 
Much the largest number, however, is in the 
central or west-central sections. Here the 
mills are thickest. Gaston County, with a 
population of 27,903 in 1900, has 32 mills; 
Alamance, with a population of 25,565, has 
23; Guilford, with 39,074 population, has 10 
mills, some of them very large; and Mecklen- 
burg, with 55,268 population, has 19. Only 34 
are to be found in what are classed as Eastern 
counties, and only four in the extreme West. 

The older mills were usually located upon 
streams to utihze the water power, but a 



THE PRESENT STATE OF THE INDUSTRY 77 

drouth was so annoying that the majority of 
these have installed steam plants for auxiliary 
use at least. Comparatively few mills are in 
the larger towns unless the towns have grown 
up around them. Generally they are built 
upon the outskirts of a village. Considerable 
land is needed for buildings and tenements, 
and this is secured at farm prices. The opera- 
tives are thus separated from whatever dis- 
tractions the town may afford, and the payment 
of town taxes is avoided. Many mills are in 
the country, though generally near a railroad. 
All the buildings are well constructed of 
brick or stone, and the newer ones are seldom 
more than two stories high. Light is admitted 
from three or four sides, and often from the 
roof as well; and the circulation of air is free, 
in striking contrast to some old New England 
mills. There, in the summer of 1903, 1 visited 
a mill where electric lights were burning at 
noon, though the sun was shining brightly 
outside. The air in the mills which spin the 
finer yarns is kept moist by humidifiers, which 



78 FROM COTTON FIELD TO COTTON MILL 

throw out water in a fine spray. In summer 
the spinning rooms are pleasanter than the 
offices or stores near by/ In winter, the con- 
trast between this humid atmosphere and the 
cold winds outside is severe. In the mills 
without humidifiers the temperature under the 
tin roof may reach 100° on an August afternoon. 
The construction of the buildings and the in- 
stallation of automatic sprinklers reduce the 
risk from fire to a minimum. 

The equipment of the newer mills is the best. 
Fewer mills here run obsolete patterns in ma- 
chinery than in New England, and all instru- 
ments of production are better, because newer. 
Every improvement, every labor-saving device, 
is installed. The time is long gone when 
Southern mills are equipped from the scrap 
heaps of other sections. The expensive Draper- 
Northrop loom which saves one half to two 
thirds of the labor in weaving plain goods 
is extensively used, while its introduction 

* For confirmation, see Young, " American Cotton Indus- 
try" (1903), p. 67. 



THE PRESENT STATE OF THE INDUSTRY 79 

into New England has been proportionately 
much slower. There managers of mills have 
felt that they could not afford to scrap their 
ordinary looms, perhaps running better than 
new, to invest in this expensive invention, 
which is not yet entirely perfected. Meanwhile 
the Southern mills which have installed them 
are reducing materially the labor cost, and with 
it the profits of the New England mills.^ 

The product of the North Carolina mills is 
yarn, ''gray" (unbleached) cloth, plaids, ging- 
hams, denims, toweling, canton flannel, hosiery, 
etc. By far the greater number of them are 
employed in the production of coarse cloth and 
the coarser numbers of the yarn, from 12 to 
24.^ From some mill or other, however, 
almost every standard product of cotton may 
be procured. The coarser yams require less 



^ The Boott Mills at Lowell have just been reorganized 
(1905) after failure largely due to neglect to keep abreast of 
recent improvements in machinery, if the current reports are 
to be trusted. 

' For classification of yarns, see Ch. VIII, p. 132. 



80 FROM COTTON FIELD TO COTTON MILL 

skill in the manufacture, but with the increasing 
competition in these grades the tendency toward 
the finer numbers is steady. The Avon Mills 
in Gastonia spin number 60's from Egyptian 
cotton, and the Daniel Mill at Lincolnton has 
spun from combed sea-island cotton the finer 
numbers up to number 100. 

There has been little difficulty in securing 
labor capable of the manipulation of fine goods. 
Of course, operatives fresh from the farms can- 
not at once display the requisite dexterity. 
By selecting those already trained upon coarser 
goods, as individuals, rather than employing 
whole famihes, success has followed. The mills 
making fine goods are necessarily confined to 
mill centers, where a large body of operatives 
is present from which selection may be made. 
Thus two predictions of Edward Atkinson have 
been disproved : the one that Southern cotton 
mills could not be successful; the second and 
later that only coarse goods could be made.^ 

* Address printed in " Report of Director General Inter- 
national Cotton Exposition," at Atlanta (1882). 



THE PRESENT STATE OF THE INDUSTRY 81 

The development of the cotton industry in 
North Carohna is a striking instance of the 
manner by which a people in poor or moder- 
ate circumstances can establish manufactures. 
Little foreign capital has been invested in 
North Carolina, contrary to the condition in 
South Carolina, Georgia, and Alabama. It is 
manifestly impossible to secure the residence 
and holding of every stockholder; but those 
best informed estimate that 90 per cent, of 
the capital has been invested by residents of 
the state. Further, the Northern capital has 
come chiefly since the success of the mills has 
been assured. The industry is distinctly a home 
enterprise, founded and fostered by natives 
of the state. During the ten years just past, 
several large mills have been built with foreign 
capital, but they have not greatly changed the 
proportion. A larger amount of such capital 
has been invested in mills already in operation, 
or has enabled a successful manager to enlarge 
his plant. 

The ownership of the mills is widely dis- 



82 FROM COTTON FIELD TO COTTON MILL 

tributed. While there are many in which a 
single man, or a single family or group, owns 
the whole, or a controlling interest, as, for ex- 
ample, the Holt family in Alamance and David- 
son counties, which owns more than a dozen 
mills, the stock in the majority is widely dis- 
tributed, owing to the method of building, 
which has often been an installment plan, on 
the following order : — 

The subscription to the shares (usually of a 
par value of $100) is made payable in weekly 
installments either of 50 cents or $ 1 the share, 
without interest. Occasionally a mill has been 
built with a 25 cent installment. Experience 
has shown, however, that this requires too 
long a period, as nearly eight years is required 
to pay the stock in full as against four or 
two years for the larger sums. Those having 
ready money may pay the whole amount at 
once less 6 per cent, discount for the average 
time, making the stock cost $89.60 + in cash. 
Usually nearly or quite a year is required 
to construct the buildings. The installments 



THE PRESENT STATE OF THE INDUSTRY 83 

more than suffice to pay the expenses, as real 
estate and buildings rarely cost more than 
20 per cent, of the capital stock. The install- 
ments and the amount paid by those who 
have taken advantage of the discount is placed 
in some bank, which is thus put under obliga- 
tions to the mill, and besides has a lively antici- 
pation of business to come. Often the directors 
of the mill are also stockholders or directors 
of the bank. Machinery may be bought on long 
credit, six, twelve, or even eighteen months, 
with interest at 6 per cent, after delivery. 
Sometimes the makers of machinery have taken 
a part of the cost of the machinery in stock, 
and in a few instances the commission houses 
have also subscribed in order to control the 
product. There has seldom been any bonded 
indebtedness intended to be permanent. 

Profits in the past have been so large that 
often before the last payment on the stock is 
due, a sum sufficient to pay all obligations has 
been accumulated. One especially successful 
mill of this class, organized with a capital of 



84 FKOM COTTON FIELD TO COTTON MILL 

$100,000, secured the buildings of an unsuc- 
cessful woodworking establishment, which with 
alterations and additions were adequate for 
the purpose. The installment was fifty cents 
the week on each share. When $35 a share 
had been paid in, in seventy weeks, a dividend 
of 4 per cent, on the capitalization was de- 
clared, and it has never failed to pay either 4 
or 5 per cent, each half year since. Further, 
a large addition has been built and set in 
motion from the profits of less than ten years' 
operation. This is by no means universal. 
Some have not paid dividends for months after 
the stock was entirely paid in, and a few have 
never been profitable. 

At first, the stock is widely distributed. 
Bankers, merchants, physicians, clerks, lawyers, 
teachers, mechanics, and even operatives in 
other mills subscribe. When difficulty is ex- 
perienced in securing the desired amount, sub- 
scriptions of one share may be accepted. The 
average holding is seldom above $1000. This 
widest distribution does not last, of course. 



THE PRESENT STATE OF THE INDUSTRY 85 

Some subscribers find difficulty in keeping up 
their installments and transfer their subscrip- 
tion to others; some grow tired of waiting 
for dividends, which seem slow in coming. 
Some, who have used their subscriptions as a 
savings bank, sell in order to buy a home, or to 
start in business for themselves/ The stock 
tends to become concentrated in fewer hands, 
though a small body of men seldom secures 
control of a successful mill of this class. After 
a time a contrary centrifugal tendency develops 
through division of estates, business changes, 
etc., as the stock is almost invariably held for 
investment and not for speculation. If a mill 
is unprofitable for several years, a few men may 
gather in the stock on the chance of a successful 
reorganization. The North Carolina mills have 
been almost invariably managed honestly in 
the interest of all the stockholders. Seldom 

*The frequency with which new mills have been started, 
and the success of the local Building and Loan Associa- 
tions, have a decided effect upon the size of deposits in savings 
banks. On this point, see the testimony of S. Wittkowsky 
before the United States Industrial Commission, Vol. III. 



86 FROM COTTON FIELD TO COTTON MILL 

have those directly in control attempted to 
'^freeze out" the small investor, though such 
instances in other Southern states are not 
unknown. 

The effect of this wide ownership influences 
public opinion in several directions. The at- 
titude of any rural or semi-rural community 
toward the larger corporations is generally hos- 
tile. This state is no exception, as the verdicts 
in damage suits against railroads and telegraph 
companies plainly show. Toward the cotton 
mill, however, the attitude has been decidedly 
friendly. Boundary lines have often been 
changed to throw a proposed establishment 
outside the town or village hmits, for a time at 
least. The mill thus escapes the payment of 
town taxes until it is well estabhshed, and often 
for a considerable period thereafter. Thus 
many communities have a considerable popula- 
tion which really belongs to the towns, though 
it does not appear upon their census or tax 
returns. 

This attempt to lighten the burden of taxa- 



THE PRESENT STATE OF THE INDUSTRY 87 

tion is shown in other ways. Though the law 
demands that all property shall be assessed at 
its true value, it has been generally understood 
that the assessment of real estate, hve stock, 
etc., is not more than two thirds to three 
fourths of the real value. The same principle 
has been applied to the mills. Formerly mills, 
which possibly had built large extensions from 
surplus, would be assessed simply upon the 
capital stock. A mill, the market or book 
value of which amounted to 100 per cent, 
advance on the capitahzation, might pay taxes 
upon only three fourths of the capital stock. 
Though the method of assessment has been 
changed, the mills do not yet pay taxes upon 
their market value. This has not been done 
by the collusion of corrupt officials, but by 
common consent. 

In many other ways the mills have been 
favored. The motive of many investors has 
been not only to secure a profitable investment 
but to "help the town." The pay roll of a 
),000 mill — a favorite size — ranges per- 



88 FROM COTTON FIELD TO COTTON MILL 

haps from $200 to $350 per week. The value 
of the cotton consumed weekly, depending of 
course upon the price and the fineness of yam, 
is between $400 and $3000. Both the opera- 
tive and the farmer speiid a large proportion 
of this sum in the town. The money paid for 
fuel and other supplies is often large, and the 
influence of this expenditure in a small town 
is enormous. It is the general sentiment that 
such a stimulus to trade must be fostered. 
This attitude of friendliness is changing in some 
sections, however, and suits are more frequent. 
The profits in the North Carolina mills have 
been large. There are, of course, as many 
rates as there are mills. The best authority 
upon cotton manufacturing in the South, Mr. 
D. A. Tompkins of Charlotte, estimates the 
average net profits for a period of twenty years 
up to 1900 at about 15 per cent. Since that 
year the average rate has probably been less. 
Some mills have made much more. Instances 
of 40 to 60 per cent, dividends are not 
unknown. In such mills, however, the plant 



THE PRESENT STATE OF THE INDUSTRY 89 

has been enlarged from profits without pro- 
portionately increasing the capitalization. A 
mill which does not accumulate a surplus suf- 
fers during a less profitable period, however. 
Even when a surplus appears upon the books, 
it is often more apparent than real, since proper 
allowance is not always made for depreciation. 
The mills are so new, and so little is known of 
accounting, that the absolute necessity of pro- 
viding a fund to replace equipment, when worn 
or obsolete, has not been reahzed in every case. 
The unsuccessful mills are often so because 
of slavery to the commission houses through 
which they sell their product. Too many 
Southern mills have been built with insufficient 
working capital or with none at all. The com- 
mission houses charge 4 per cent, on un- 
bleached cloth, and 5 per cent, on yams and 
fancy cloths, and sell when and to whom they 
please. Goods are sold upon sixty days' time, 
with 2 per cent, discount for cash within ten 
days. The commission houses, many of which 
have banking connections, gladly advance 



90 FROM COTTON FIELD TO COTTON MILL 

75 to 90 per cent, of the market value 
of unsold goodS; charging the mill double the 
rate of interest which they themselves must 
pay for the money. Thus interest charges 
often eat up profits. The commission house 
to which the mill is indebted may demand en- 
tire control of its output, and the manufacturer 
may not receive in every case a price as high 
as might be realized in a market entirely free. 
Mills without adequate capital have succeeded 
only because there has been generally a large 
margin between cost of production and the 
average selling price. With the great increase 
of competition, the mill handicapped by debt 
from the beginning finds successful operation 
increasingly difficult.'^ 

An apparent contradiction of economic law is 
found in the fact that the profits of the smaller 
yarn mills have seemed to be greater than those 
of the larger establishments. While, owing to 
the more careless accounting in the smaller 

* See Tompkins, " Cotton Mill, Commercial Features," 
p. 128, and Young, "American Cotton Industry," p. 117. 



THE PRESENT STATE OF THE INDUSTRY 91 

mills, some of this excess does not really exist, 
all the difference cannot be thus explained. 
The small mills are usually in the country or 
in the small towns. They draw their cotton 
from the surrounding territory, and may save 
sUghtly in freights over the mills which must 
draw a part of their supply from other states. 
In coarse goods the largest cost is the raw 
material.^ Purchasing cotton in small quanti- 
ties is no disadvantage as the bale is the unit, 
and five may be purchased at the same price per 
pound as a hundred or a thousand. Many of 
these mills have burned wood from the sur- 
rounding country. One and a half to two cords 
of wood is estimated to produce as much steam 

* The following table, calculated by Mr. D. A. Tompkins, 
shows the relation : — 

Percentage of the Total Cost of Finished Product attribu- 
table TO THE Factors of Material and Labor 

Cotton Labor 



United States . 


. . 44% . 


. . 26% 


New England . 


. . 42% . 


. . 28% 


South . 


. . 59% . 


. . 19% 



A slight difference in the price of cotton may make a great 
difference in the rate of profit. 



92 FROM COTTON FIELD TO COTTON MILL 

as a ton of coal. When wood is purchased at 
$1.50 a cord or less as compared with $3.25 a 
ton or more for coal, the advantage is notice- 
able. 

Few operatives are needed in one of these 
small mills. These possibly may be secured 
from the surrounding farms and become valu- 
able before they are seized with the desire to 
move constantly, the bane of the factory popu- 
lation. It is easier for the superintendent to 
secure the personal knowledge of his operatives 
necessary for success in management.* On 
account of the smaller cost of living, wages 
may be lower than in the mill centers. The 
rates of commission charged for selling the 
product are the same as the larger mills pay, 
or a neighboring mill takes the output. There 
is no complaint of freight discrimination be- 
tween shippers in the same territory. 

The only disproportionate expense, then, 
would seem to be cost of efficient management 
and superintendence. Often the superintend- 

^ See Chap. XI. 



THE PEESENT STATE OF THE INDUSTRY 93 

ents of these small mills are men of little 
education or theoretical knowledge, who have 
worked up from the position of operatives. 
They know well the practical side of spinning 
the few standard numbers, and Httle attempt 
is made to diversify product. They under- 
stand '^ managing help," but their lack of train- 
ing unfits them for the management of larger 
and more complicated establishments. 

Sometimes the superintendents are young 
men of education trained in larger mills who 
take these positions to make reputations. 
They throw all their energy into the work, 
knowing that a man of unusual ability and 
success will not long escape the eye of the 
managers of the larger mills. It has been in- 
creasingly difficult to secure men having that 
peculiar combination of qualities necessary 
for the large establishments. Custom has been 
against promoting a man in the same estab- 
lishment, and every young man, no matter how 
obscure his mill, is spurred on by the possibility 
of securing one of the great prizes. Enthusiasm 



94 FROM COTTON FIELD TO COTTON MILL 

counts and often produces greater results than 
experience. 

Further, a point in favor of the smaller 
mills has been the increasing difficulty in secur- 
ing competent managers of the large mills. A 
large body of trained entrepreneurs, success- 
ful in the management of large enterprises, has 
not yet been developed. Men successful in 
the smaller business are not always propor- 
tionately so in the larger. When a large estab- 
lishment loses a successful manager, trouble 
is often experienced in filling his place. The 
high grade of managing ability will become 
more common as a larger proportion of the 
population turns attention to business careers. 
Already there are individual managers able to 
meet successfully any competition, and their 
number grows larger. Meanwhile, the smaller 
establishment has paid the larger dividends. 

This condition cannot endure, as many of the 
advantages enumerated are but temporary. 
The operatives show an increasing preference 
for the larger mills, a part perhaps of the general 



THE PRESENT STATE OF THE INDUSTRY 95 

movement from country to town. The supply 
of wood is being exhausted, and as the larger 
mill has usually the more economical engines, 
the cost of coal will be proportionately greater 
in the smaller mills. The state spun in 1904 
about 96.3 per cent of its cotton crop, and the 
local supply cannot much longer be depended 
upon.^ The profits of the smaller mills, unless 
favored by exceptional local conditions, are 
not likely to continue so great, 

^ The larger crop of 1904 reduced the percentage of con- 
sumption for 1905 to 78.4 per cent. 



CHAPTER VI 

THE KEAL FACTORY OPEEATIVE 

Much nonsense has been written and be- 
lieved concerning social conditions in the 
South before the Civil War. The large planter 
with thousands of acres of land and hundreds 
of slaves on the one hand, and the "poor 
white trash, " have been described as compris- 
ing the whole white population. 

The Northern writers have not made suffi- 
cient investigation, and the few Southerners 
who have attempted to describe ante-bellum 
life have often done so sentimentally. Little 
attempt has been made to correct the preva- 
lent impression, possibly from a desire to be 
considered as belonging, by descent at least, 
to the opulent aristocracy; possibly because 
the truth is not so interesting from a literary 
standpoint. A typical statement of a North- 

96 



THE REAL FACTORY OPERATIVE 97 

ern writer is found in one of the widely read 
Chautauqua Series: ". . . there was no middle 
class in the South. The 'poor whites* were 
ignorant and degraded." * 

A very slight study of conditions in the several 
states would have shown the inaccuracy of such 
sweeping statements. The white population of 
North Carolina in 1860, 629,942, representing 
perhaps 125,000 famihes, contained but 34,658 
slaveholders, and these owned 331,059 slaves — 
an average of less than 10. Such a number 
could hardly raise the owners into the class of 
a feudal aristocracy. Moreover, of the total 
slaveholders, 18,316 owned less than 5, and 
12,277 more from 6 to 20. Only 3321 owned 
from 20 to 50, 611 from 50 to 100, and 133 
owned more than 100.^ Of the 311 largest 
slaveholders, only 87 lived in the Western 
counties, though that section contained more 
than three fifths of the white population. 

Land was, of course, held in larger tracts 

* Beers, " Initial Studies in American Letters," 1895. 

* U.S. Census 1860, v. Population, p. 351. 



98 FROM COTTON FIELD TO COTTON MILL 

than in the North, but even in this respect, 
conditions in the South were by no means 
uniform. The average size of farms in North 
CaroHna in 1860, including the large plantations 
in the East (some of which included much 
apparently valueless swamp land), and other 
great tracts of waste mountain land in the 
West, was 316.8 acres. This is to be compared 
with an average of 536 in Louisiana, 488 in 
South Carolina, and an average of 401.7 in the 
cotton states taken as a whole. In all 75,203 
separate farms were reported. 

Further, of all these farms 69.1 per cent, were 
of less than 100 acres, 28.7 per cent, more of 
100 to 500, and only 2.2 per cent, of more than 
500 acres.^ The number for each of groups 
20 to 50, 50 to 100, and 100 to 500 was ahnost 
the same, i.e. 20,882 for the first, 18,496 for the 
second, and 19,220 for the third. The number 
of farms above 1000 acres was exactly the same 
as the number of large slaveholders, 311. 

^ Consult an elaborate study of conditions, Von Halle, 
"Baumwollproduktion" (Leipzig, 1898). 



THE REAL FACTORY OPERATIVE 99 

The character and the hfe of the settlers 
of the state have already been described. In 
the East and the adjacent "pine barrens" were 
some large plantations, and an approach, per- 
haps, to a ''poor white" class. In the extreme 
West, among the mountains, the inhabitants 
lived in 1860 the same primitive lives that 
their grandfathers had done, but in the great 
middle or Piedmont region different conditions 
prevailed. 

Here was a strong, sturdy, middle class. 
The proportion of slaves to whites, 38 per cent., 
was smaller than in the East. Counting five 
persons to the white family, there were only 
1.9 slaves for each group. The slaveholders 
in this section, often held only one, or a 
single family, though of course there were many 
who owned a larger number. 

The Scotch-Irish and Germans who had come 
to this region were not desirous of escaping 
churches and schools. They sent back to 
Pennsylvania or to Germany for ministers, 
and, particularly among the Scotch-Irish, 



100 FROM COTTON FIELD TO COTTON MILL 

classical schools were established by the side 
of the churches/ 

Clio's Nursery in Iredell, Zion-Parnassus in 
Rowan, and Dr. David Caldwell's School in 
Guilford were well known. Here young men, 
particularly those preparing for the ministry, 
were grounded in the classics, mathematics, and 
the strict Calvinistic theology which their pre- 
ceptors had imbibed at Princeton. The state- 
ment of Fiske, that until just before the Revo- 
lution there was not a school, good or bad, in 
the province, is entirely untrue.^ 

Education was not, however, regarded as a 
right, nor as a necessity for every one. The 
interest of the church was foremost; and the 
dictum that "unsanctified learning has never 
been of any benefit to the church " was generally 
accepted. The efforts of the state to establish 
a satisfactory public school system and the 
partial success have already been mentioned. 

* Consult Bernheim, " History of German Settlements 
and of the Lutheran Church in the Carolinas " (1872). 

2 Author, " Some Log Colleges in North Carolina," Pres- 
byterian Quarterly, January, 1900. 



THE REAL FACTORY OPERATIVE 101 

Throughout this section the people were 
generally fairly industrious, "good-livers," to 
use a colloquial expression, though few became 
wealthy, even by the moderate standards pre- 
vailing before 1860. Adequate transportation 
facihties were developed slowly, and for a long 
time it seemed hardly worth while to raise 
more than could be consumed upon the farms. 

The idea that manual labor was a disgrace 
had no foothold here. The more disagreeable 
kinds might, perhaps, be called ''negro work," 
and a certain repugnance be felt for such occu- 
pations. But dozens of the older men have 
told me of working in the fields, plowing, 
hoeing, or gathering the crops, with the slaves.* 

These slaves belonged to their fathers or were 
hired for the work. A landowner whose labor 
force was insufficient might hire the slaves of 
minor heirs under the protection of the courts ; 
or he might secure the services of his less 
prosperous white neighbors. Whites thus 

' For similar conditions in middle Georgia, read Joel 
Chandler Harris's stories. 



102 FROM COTTON FIELD TO COTTON MILL 

employed by the smaller farmers ate at the 
family table and slept in the house, as they do 
to-day. 

Many of the wealthier families in the Pied- 
mont section, at least, owed the beginning of 
their fortunes to some artisan or small manu- 
facturer who bought land and slaves with his 
profits. One ante-bellum United States senator 
of culture and distinction was descended from 
an iron worker; another from a hatter; a 
prominent political leader was the son of a 
cabinetmaker. Two prominent families, large 
enough, almost, to be called clans, are de- 
scended, respectively, from a blacksmith and a 
tailor. 

Many men of influence were, or had been, 
merchants. There was no prejudice against 
trade. The position of the merchant was close 
to that of the lawyer and the doctor. It is 
true that all these classes were hkely to be 
planters also. Every country doctor had a 
farm. Nearly every lawyer owned a planta- 
tion to which he expected to retire with ad- 



THE REAL FACTORY OPERATIVE 103 

vancing years. To live on a plantation com- 
bining otium cum dignitate was a well-nigh 
universal ambition. 

The planter in this section did not despise 
the degrees by which he had gained his ambi- 
tion. Indeed, it is not too much to say that 
the Piedmont section of North Carolina was 
more nearly a social democracy after 1840 
than were the manufacturing sections of New 
England, where by that date there was a well- 
defined manufacturing aristocracy. 

With the war and the ensuing disorder and 
demoralization, two opposing movements were 
apparent. Many of the small landowners 
lost their land, and became tenant farmers, 
some for a fixed money rent, but more for a 
share of the crop. Large plantations, however, 
were divided, and some of the negroes began 
to acquire land. By 1870 the number of farms 
had increased to 93,565, an increase of 18,362, 
compared with an increase of 18,240 from 1850 
to I860.' 

1 Census 1870. 



104 FROM COTTON FIELD TO COTTON MILL 

The renter in some cases furnished his own 
stock, tools, seed, and labor, receiving in return 
two thirds or three fourths of the crop, though 
occasionally on rich alluvial lands two fifths 
were demanded for the land. Many more 
could furnish only the labor, and the land- 
owner furnished the tools, stock, etc. While 
modified in individual cases, a rough under- 
standing grew common, that in the division 
of a crop, one third was due to land, one third 
to labor, and the remainder to stock and tools. 

Often, however, the renter was unable to 
sustain himself until the crop was gathered. 
In such cases, supplies must be '^advanced" 
either by the landlord or by the country 
merchant. Hence there developed the system 
of crop liens and chattel mortgages, by which 
the farmer was enabled to mortgage his stock, 
and his growing, or even his unplanted, crops, 
to secure the necessities of life.^ 

Many small landowners also lacked capital, 

* For an elaborate and valuable study of the tenant sys- 
tem see Hammond, " The Cotton Industry " (1897). 



THE REAL FACTORY OPERATIVE 105 

and were forced to seek advances from the 
merchant. No interest was charged upon such 
advances, but the merchant gained his profit 
by the higher prices charged for all articles. 
These prices have varied with the neighbor- 
hood, the character of the merchant, the repu- 
tation of the mortgagor, and sometimes with 
his necessity or ignorance. The general hmits 
are perhaps between 10 per cent, and 50 per 
cent, above the regular cash prices. But as 
the account seldom stood so long as a year, and 
a large proportion of the purchases was made 
during the few months before the crops were 
gathered, the farmer, in debt to the merchant, 
has paid on a part or the whole of his working 
capital a rate of interest ranging from 25 per 
cent, to 200 per cent, a year. To some extent 
these conditions still exist. 

Further, the opportunity to purchase on 
credit has always been a constant temptation 
to extravagance. The day of payment seems 
far away and the crop appears large in pros- 
pect. Though the usual stock of the country 



106 FROM COTTON FIELD TO COTTON MILL 

merchant is tawdry and uninviting, many things 
are pm'chased which are not strictly necessary. 
Before the crop is gathered the agreed advances 
are sometimes absorbed, and pinching economy 
may be necessary during the last few weeks of 
the season. 

The merchant, also, has demanded a voice in 
determining the crops to be planted. Cotton 
and tobacco have been the favored staples. 
Both contain comparatively large value in 
small bulk. Neither is subject to deteriora- 
tion to the same extent as other crops. A 
ready-cash market, at some price, is always 
present for either, and neither is liable to a 
total failure. To the grower there is also a 
gambler's chance of great profits. 

The profit to be made on provisions has also 
influenced the merchant in his choice of the 
crops to be planted. So tons of Western bacon 
have been and are still sold in regions where hogs 
can be easily and cheaply raised. Western hay, 
corn, and flour are sold in districts admirably 
suited to the production of grass and grains. ; 



THE REAL FACTORY OPERATIVE 107 

When the crops are gathered, it is necessarily 
an indictable offense to sell without the mort- 
gagee's consent. In fact, he is usually the pur- 
chaser, and the surplus, after accounts are 
settled, is paid to the farmer. Undoubtedly the 
price credited for the products is not always the 
highest that might be obtained in a free market. 
The grower cannot hold back his crop for a pos- 
sible higher price, as the merchant naturally 
demands the early settlement of his account. 

The net returns to the farmer of this wasteful 
system are of course small at best. A partial 
failure of his crop, or especially low prices 
growing out of generally excessive production, 
may render the payment of the merchant's 
accounts difficult or impossible. In such a 
case the merchant has the right to strip the 
farmer of his live stock and tools, but oftener 
the unpaid balance is carried over to the next 
year. The meaning of the expression, " Two 
years behind," is obvious. The arrears of sev- 
eral unprofitable years may reduce the farmer 
to a state bordering upon despair. 



108 FROM COTTON FIELD TO COTTON MILL 

By no means all who purchase supplies on 
credit are so entirely in the power of the mer- 
chant, nor does the latter grow so rich as might 
be expected. In spite of all his precautions, 
a considerable proportion of his accounts are 
uncollectible, his assets are slow, and not easy 
to reahze upon, if he is himself pressed. Often, 
too, he shows mercy to the unfortunate. 
During the period of depression following the 
panic of 1893, many merchants were crippled, 
since the price of all agricultural products was 
so low that the crops often would not pay the 
advances, and many farms were abandoned. 

The Farmers' Alliance preached cooperative 
buying for cash and many members escaped 
from debt and have not been obliged to return. 
The high price of cotton in 1903-1905 freed 
thousands more. Except among those directly 
connected with manufacturing, one hears in the 
South little condemnation of the ''Sully cor- 
ner" of 1903-1904.^ It is the general feehng 

* The attempt of the farmers to secure a monopoly price 
for the crop of 1905 has been viewed in somewhat the same 
light. 



THE REAL FACTORY OPERATIVE 109 

that the farmer has had an unfair share of the 
burden of government ; that he has been com- 
pelled to buy in the dearest and to sell in the 
cheapest market. Generally, speculative ma- 
nipulation has been credited with keeping down 
the prices of agricultural products, at least 
until the crops have passed into the hands of 
middlemen and speculators. 

In the Sully manipulation the farmer re- 
ceived much of the benefit, as the inflation began 
before the whole crop had left his hands. The 
higher prices brought freedom and hope to the 
Southern farmer, and stimulated trade in com- 
forts and simple luxuries. A new buggy, a 
cabinet organ, a suite of furniture, a new 
kitchen stove, improved machinery for the 
farm, were some of the results. Perhaps a 
son or a daughter gained the coveted oppor- 
tunity of a year at an academy or at college. 

With these people, the small landowner and 
the tenant farmer from the surrounding coun- 
try, the factory villages have been filled. The 
mountain counties have furnished compara- 



110 FROM COTTON FIELD TO COTTON MILL 

lively few operatives to the North Carohna 
mills. The establishments in upper South 
CaroUna have drawn a somewhat larger pro- 
portion of their operatives from the mountain 
people. No operatives were imported from 
abroad when the mills were built. There was 
then no urban population, hardly a village 
population.^ The mills have been filled with a 
population coming from the soil, as was to a 
great extent the case in New England seventy 
or eighty years ago. 

Here and there are, however, a few individ- 
uals who have traditions of culture and wealth. 
Descendants of men who possibly held high 
position in the state and nation now earn their 
bread at the spinning frames or at the looms. 
Ruined by the war in some cases, their fathers 
were unable to adjust themselves to changed 
conditions. The children have lacked the train- 
ing to fit them for more responsible positions, 
and the mill furnishes a hving. 

These people are all Americans, and hundreds 

* Chapter I. 



THE REAL FACTORY OPERATIVE 111 

could qualify as Sons or Daughters of the Revo- 
lution. They have lived simple, primitive lives 
upon the soil in a sparsely populated commu- 
nity. In 1900 only 36.6 per cent, of the land 
was in cultivation. They have lacked the 
stimulus arising from free association with 
the world. Even association with their neigh- 
bors was not easy. 

The monthljT- or semi-monthly church ser- 
vices were attended with regularity. A day 
or two at the quarterly or semi-annual sessions 
of the Superior Court at the county seat brought 
many together. In fact ''Tuesday of Court" 
sees perhaps the largest number of farmers in 
town next to ''Circus Day." Political meetings 
are attended and the country store on Satur- 
day afternoon has always been a meeting place. 
In the summer, when "crops are laid by" and 
farm work is slack, a neighbor's family comes to 
"spend the day." But of incidental social in- 
tercourse in the daily round of work there is 
little. 

Facilities for education have been lacking, 



112 FROM COTTON FIELD TO COTTON MILL 

and many are illiterate. This is particularly 
true of those growing up in the decade between 
1860 and 1870. This ignorance does not neces- 
sarily imply that they are dangerous citizens. 
It is easy to make a fetish of the ability to read 
and write. Yet society may dread more the 
discontented literate than the ignorant farmer. 
Their ignorance has made them an obstacle to 
progress rather than a positive menace to the 
existing order.^ 

Their lack of knowledge has intensified their 
conservatism, and bhnded them to possibilities 
of ultimate good at the cost of present dis- 
comfort ; but nevertheless many of them think. 
Following the plow, they turn over in their 
minds the arguments heard at the political 
joint discussion, or the position of the lawyer 
or of the squire. Their thinking is not always 
clear nor logical, but often their sturdy common 
sense brings them to surprisingly logical con- 
clusions. Ilhteracy in a city slum and in a 
rural community are not identical dangers. 

» Read Ingle, " Southern Side Lights " (1896), Ch. V. 



THE EEAL FACTORY OPERATIVE 113 

The dangers of an illiterate mill population 
are yet to come in the state. 

The term ''poor white trash" applied so 
often by Northern writers to the mill popula- 
tion is almost unknown in Piedmont Carolina. 
During a residence of twenty-five years in that 
section, the writer heard the expression used 
by whites hardly a dozen times, and seldom 
by negroes. A servile white class does not 
exist. This fact cannot be stated too forcibly. 

Speaking broadly, this stratum of the rural 
population — it is not a class — is an honest, 
self-respecting, law-abiding, God-fearing people. 
In many neighborhoods doors are not locked at 
night. As a result of whisky, personal encoun- 
ters are not unknown, but the percentage of 
crime is low. Sexual immorality is not com- 
mon. The people are poor, but the number of 
paupers is small. They are unprogressive, they 
fail to make the most of their opportunities, 
but they are not degraded. It is suspended or 
arrested development rather than degeneracy.^ 

» Page, "The Rebuilding of Old Commonwealths" (1902). 



114 FROM COTTON FIELD TO COTTON MILL 

Intellect and ambition are dormant, rather 
than dead. Every year boys and girls, fired 
with the desire for learning, enter school or 
college. A large proportion of the graduating 
classes of many institutions comes from this 
stratum of the population. The college author- 
ities can tell almost incredible stories of persist- 
ence in the face of difficulties. In spite of 
insufficient preparation, these boys and girls 
often stand high in their classes and become 
leaders in many departments of the college 
life.^ 

The motives for the migration to the mill 
are various. Some of the propelling forces have 
already been mentioned. Underlying all is 
the hope of bettering the general condition of 
the family, of receiving larger returns for the 
family labor. The hope of gaining at the mills 
better housing, better food, better clothing, 
together with the inarticulate social instinct, 
fills the factory tenements. 

^ For an instance, see New York Evening Post, June 5, 
1905. 



THE REAL FACTORY OPERATIVE 115 

Observation seems to divide those coming 
to the mills into five classes. First, is the 
honest man, ambitious for his children, who 
comes intending to work himself and hopeful 
of greater advantages for the education of the 
children, since the school term in the mill 
village is twice as long as in the country. 

Next is the incapable or the shiftless, the man 
who lacks the mental qualifications or the moral 
steadfastness necessary for success in an inde- 
pendent capacity. He may work hard, but 
faulty judgment renders his efforts impotent. 
His condition at the mills is not likely to be 
worse and may be better. 

A third class comprises those suffering from 
some physical disability, real or imaginary. 
They are, or fancy they are, incapacitated 
for the hard work of the farm and the neces- 
sary exposure to the weather. Perhaps the 
children are girls who cannot do the rough 
work in the fields. 

The fourth class is composed of widows. 
Among these people, life insurance is not com- 



116 FROM COTTON FIELD TO COTTON MILL 

ttion. The death of the head of the family 
makes the cultivation of the farm a serious 
problem. If the family is to be kept together, 
the mill seems the only refuge. 

There is another class, those who come to 
the mills with the dehberate intention of living 
a Hfe of ease on the earnings of their children. 
Tired of the constant struggle upon the farms, 
they shift the burden upon younger shoulders. 
They discuss politics and neighborhood affairs 
around the store in the winter and in the shade 
in the summer. They carry the provisions 
from the store, and, perhaps, if the house is 
remote from the mill, take the dinner to their 
children. The epithet '' tin-bucket toter" 
has been coined for them. This class is not 
large at first, but receives accessions from 
the first three classes, the members of which 
find it a difficult task to take up a new employ- 
ment after age has taken away adaptability. 

Whatever may have been the original motives 
of the immigrants, the general result is the 
great problem of child labor. The process 



THE REAL FACTORY OPERATIVE 117 

and the extent to which the children assume 
the support of the family belong to the chapter 
on Child Labor, where that grave question 
will be discussed more fully. 



CHAPTER VII 

THE OPERATIVES AT WORK 

North Carolina, as has been previously 
stated, has a larger number of separate mills 
than any other state, though in production 
she is only third. The figures for 1904, 
the latest available, show 304 separate textile 
estabhshments ^ having 2,178,964 spindles and 
48,612 looms, an average to the establishment 
(excluding the knitting mills) of 8285 spindles 
and 185 looms.^ Mills with about this number 
of spindles are often found, while many mills 
have no looms at all. To follow a bale of cotton 
through a mill of average size and to study the 
processes and the workers who handle it, will 
give much aid toward a clear conception of the 
problem. 

^ Including forty-one knitting mills, and twelve small 
woolen mills the statistics of which are not separately given. 

^ The figures for 1905 which became available after the 
chapter was in type do not affect the general ratio. 

118 



THE OPERATIVES AT WORK 119 

The cotton is delivered at the mills in bales, 
packed in jute or cotton bagging, just as they 
came from the gins. The standard bale is 
500 pounds, but the actual range is from 375 
to 600 pounds, with more bales below than 
above the standard weight. There is no 
standard size, but the average is perhaps 
30 X 48 X 54 inches. 

The bales go first to the picker room, which 
is shut off from the rest of the mill by fireproof 
walls, or else is in a building entirely separate. 
Here the bagging and the ties (bands of strap 
iron encirchng the bales) are removed. Hand- 
fuls are taken from several bales in turn and 
thrown into a bin in order to average as far as 
possible any differences in moisture, color, and 
length of fiber. The bales may have been 
raised upon different kinds of soil under vary- 
ing climatic influences. The treatment at the 
gin and in storage may have been different. 
Some have been stored in a dry place while 
others have been exposed to the weather. 
Mixing in the Southern mills is not so impor- 



120 FROM COTTON FIELD TO COTTON MILL 

tant as in England or New England, where 
there is more variation in the raw material and 
where mixing different grades to secure stock 
at a given price is studied with care/ 

The cotton thus mixed is fed to the '^opener," 
which loosens the fibers that have been closely 
interlocked and compressed, and begins the 
work of knocking or blowing out the dust, 
trash, motes, and other foreign matter. The 
man in charge of opening the bales and of this 
machine is called the ^'opener." The task 
demands only strength and a minimum of 
intelHgence. Sometimes the opener is a negro, 
and this is usually the only position inside the 
mill which one of that color may hold. 

Next the cotton is fed into a ''lapper," which 
continues the work of untangling the fibers, 
removing impurities, including broken ends 
or short lint. It is delivered in the form of 
'^laps," which are sheets of batting of loose 
texture 36 to 45 inches wide and usually 48 
yards long, weighing from 10 to 18 ounces the 

^ Nasmith, " Students Cotton Spinning," p. 90. 



THE OPERATIVES AT WORK 121 

yard. For the purpose of further mixing and 
in order to equalize any differences in weight 
or thickness, a number of these laps, usually 
four, are superimposed and drawn out into one 
of the same weight as each of its constituent 
parts. This process is usually repeated, and 
occasionally a second time. A white man 
manages these machines. 

The laps are now taken to the ''cards," 
which continue the work of untangHng the 
fibers and remove the impurities left by the 
previous machines. The fibers are rendered 
approximately parallel, and the cotton is 
dehvered in the form of ''sHver," which is 
simply a loose, untwisted cotton rope a Httle 
less than one inch in diameter and weighing 
yard for yard hardly a hundredth part as much 
as the lap. By an ingenious device the sHver 
is deposited coiled in cylindrical cans. One or 
two men, with the ''card-room boss," who has 
general charge of all the processes thus far, 
can manage these machines in an 8000 spindle 
mill. 



122 FROM COTTON FIELD TO COTTON MILL 

From four to eight cans of sliver go to each 
'^drawing frame, " of which the essential feature 
is pairs of rollers moving at unequal and in- 
creasing speed. The fibers are rendered par- 
allel, and any inequality in the constituent 
shvers is made less important by combination 
with the others. The product delivered from 
the most rapid rollers is a single rope of prac- 
tically the same weight as each of its constitu- 
ent parts. This evening up is so important 
that the process is usually repeated twice. If 
six ends are fed each time into the machine, 
it is obvious that 6 x 6 x 6 = 216 ends have 
been drawn into one. Two or three men or 
strong women will manage this process. 

The sHver is now fed to the "slubber," which 
reduces the thickness and imparts a shght 
twist. The product is now ^'slubbing" and 
is wound upon large bobbins to be ready for 
the next process. The ''intermediates" con- 
tinue the attenuation and twisting, and the 
process is carried further by the ''fine frames," 
which are almost duphcates of the intermedi- 



THE OPERATIVES AT WORK 123 

ates. Two or three men manage the slubbers, 
the same number of men or women the inter- 
mediates, and four or five the "speeders," as 
the fine frames are often called. The stock, 
now become '^roving," is ready for the 
final drawing out and twist imparted by the 
spinning frames proper, or by the ''mules." 

In the South, mules are little used, and 
practically all the yarn is spun upon ring 
frames. These are 36 to 39 inches wide, and 
have two sides. The length varies, but 27 
feet is most common. This length contains, 
of the yams most generally spun, numbers 
16 to 30, 104 spindles on each side, or 208 to 
each frame. 

So far the twist imparted has been only 
enough to keep the cotton together. Now the 
bobbins of roving are placed in creels, and the 
ends again run between pairs of rollers revolv- 
ing at unequal speed. The spindles driven at 
high speed, from 5000 to 10,000 revolutions 
the minute, impart the twist, and by action of 
the ''traveler" the resulting yarn is wound 



124 FROM COTTON FIELD TO COTTON MILL 

upon the bobbins. The high speed and the 
tension cause the threads to break frequently, 
and these must be twisted together. 

Girls nearly all below the age of sixteen do 
this work, each one looking after from one to 
eight "sides," i.e. from 104 to 832 spindles. 
Eight sides has been the Hmit of economical 
operation in the South, as frequently several 
threads break at the same moment and that 
part of the machine is idle until they are 
mended. 

Only the youngest beginners are confined 
to one side. The average in different mills 
lies between three and six. This varies with 
scarcity of operatives as well as with absolute 
skill. When labor is plenty, the number of 
sides allotted to each girl is smaller, as thus a 
nearer approach to production (the amount 
theoretically possible for each spindle to de- 
liver) may be secured. As wages are paid by 
the side, each girl is naturally ambitious to run 
as many as possible. The work requires little 
physical strength, but a high degree of dexterity 



THE OPERATIVES AT WORK 125 

comes to the experienced spinner before she is 
advanced to the looms. In a mill where all 
machinery is first-class, when the raw material 
is of good quahty and the atmospheric condi- 
tions are right, there is nothing to do for con- 
siderable intervals. On another day the threads 
break constantly and all possible nimbleness 
cannot keep all the spindles running. Constant 
watchfuhiess is always required. 

The full bobbins are removed and empty 
ones placed in their stead by boys, ^^doffers," 
and the operation is called ''doffing." They 
work exceedingly rapidly, but have long 
periods of rest. In all they work from 20 to 
45 minutes in every hour. Often when they 
will not be needed before the closing time, 
they are dismissed before the other operatives, 
or occasionally are allowed to play out of doors 
until they are needed.^ The mill of which we 
are speaking would have 40 machines, 80 sides, 
and 16 to 24 spinners. Nine or 10 doffers 
can keep the machines clear. In addition there 

1 Bulletin Bureau of Labor (U.S.), No. 52, p. 514. 



126 FEOM COTTON FIELD TO COTTON MILL 

will be an overseer of spinning and a section 
hand, both men. 

The bobbins are necessarily wound with 
irregular tension, as the thread circles from 
bottom to top. To remedy this, the yarn frona 
several bobbins is now wound regularly and 
smoothly, with no additional twist, upon a 
spool. Usually girls or women run the spoolers, 
and 8 to 12 will be required. 

For single yarns the processes heretofore 
described are the same whether the yarn is 
to be woven on the premises or to be sold. If 
''ply" yarns are desired, 2 to 6 of the strands 
are twisted into a single cord, by special machin- 
ery managed by 5 or 6 men. But whether 
single or twisted, the processes through which 
the yarn now goes differ according to its des- 
tination. If it is to be sold, from 1000 to 2000 
spools are taken to the '^Denn warper," which 
draws them all into one great rope or skein, 
and knots or links them together to prevent 
tangling. It is then ready to be baled for 
the market. One man has charge of the ma- 



THE OPERATIVES AT WORK 127 

chine. On the other hand, if the yarn is to 
be woven upon the premises, the threads de- 
signed for the warp (lengthwise), from 300 to 
600 spools, go to the beam warper. Here 
they are wound upon cylindrical beams. Again 
one man has charge. 

From 3 to 6 beams, depending upon the 
width, fineness, etc., of the cloth to be woven 
now go to the slasher to be "sized." The 
'^ends" (separate threads), say 400 on each 
beam, now pass through a box containing starch, 
tallow, and sometimes other ingredients, which 
serve to stiffen and strengthen the yarn, and 
render it smooth. As they pass out they are 
drawn between heated cylinders, and the ends 
are wound upon a loom beam. One man only, 
with a little outside help for the heavy lifting, 
is required in this position. 

The loom beams must now be "put into har- 
ness," as the arrangement of the heddles and 
reeds in the looms is called. Each separate 
end, sometimes more than 2000, must be drawn 
through an eye in the harness and a dent in 



128 FROM COTTON FIELD TO COTTON MILL 

the reed. Three girls do this work, called 
"drawing-in," which is probably more trying 
on eyesight and nerves than any other position 
in the mill. A recent invention promises to set 
free these workers. 

These loom beams, with the ends drawn into 
harness, are now adjusted in the looms. The 
filling (threads running across the cloth) comes 
directly from the frames on bobbins ready to 
be placed in the shuttles. The operatives are 
adults, men and women. Their duties are to 
keep the ends mended, and fresh bobbins in the 
shuttles. Some strength and judgment is re- 
quired, as the loom is a comphcated machine. 
The number of looms which can be managed 
by a single weaver varies with the quahty, 
weight, width, and color of the cloth, the 
style of the loom, and also with the skill, 
strength, and natural or inherited aptitude of 
the weaver himself. Occasionally a weaver 
will manage 8 common looms, excellent weav- 
ers have 6, a greater number has 4, and the 
younger and more inexperienced have 2. 



THE OPERATIVES AT WORK 129 

With the automatic loom, which throws out 
the empty bobbin and takes a full one from a 
creel, an operative can manage from 12 to 
24. In our mill of 8285 spindles, the num- 
ber of regular looms necessary to consume the 
yarn varies from 200 to 250, depending upon 
the fineness of the yarn and the goods woven. 
There will be 45 to 60 operatives, a ''weave 
boss," and 2 " loom fixers." Payment is by 
the cut of 40 to 60 yards. 

The cloth as woven is wound upon a beam 
holding several cuts. The cloth on a number 
of beams is sewed into a strip and passes 
through a machine variously known as a 
''brusher," ''shearer," or "calendar." This 
shears off the loose threads, emery wheels 
grind off the rough places, and after the cloth 
has passed through a steam jet, heated rollers 
iron it smoothly. Next the cloth goes to the 
"folder," which makes the bolts seen in the 
shops. After stamping and baling, the cloth 
is ready for the market. Two or three men 
have charge of these three processes. 



130 FROM COTTON FIELD TO COTTON MILL 



From the foregoing account it appears that 
the labor force employed in the average North 
CaroHna cotton mill which spins only is as 
follows : — 



I. 1 Superintendent. 


IX. 4-5 Speeder hands. 


II. 1 Card-room boss. 


X. 1 Overseer of spinning. 


III. 1 Opener, 


XI. 2 Section hands. 


IV. 1 Picker hand. 


XII. 16-24 Spinners (girls). 


V. 1-2 Card hands. 


XIII. 8-10 Doflfers (boys). 


VI. 2-3 Draw-frame hands. 


XIV. 8-12 Spoolers. 


VII. 2-3 Slubber hands. 


XV. (4-6 Twisters, if ply 


VIII. 2-3 Intermediate 


yam is desired). 


hands. 


XVI. 1 Warper (man). 


In addition there wil 


Ibe: — 


XVII. 1 Band boy. 


XX. 1 Baler. 


XVIII. 2-3 Sweepers ( old 


XXI. 1 Engineer. 


men). 


XXII. 1 Fireman. 


XIX. 1 Oiler and bander. 


XXIII. 2-4 Truckmen. 



Say 40 to 50 adults, and 28 to 40 children, as 
occasionally a boy or girl below the age of 
16 may work at the draw frames, spoolers, or 
twisters. The percentage of children ranges 
from 35 to 45. 

If the mill has looms and weaves its yarn 
into cloth, the warper (XVI) will be omitted, 
and we have in addition : — 



THE OPERATIVES AT WORK 



131 



XXIV. 
XXV. 

XXVI. 

XXVII. 

XXVIII. 



1 Filler (man). 
1 Spooler to warper 

(woman). 
1 Beam warper 

(man). 
1 Slasher tender 

(man). 
3 Drawing-in girls. 



XXIX. 1 Weave boss 

(man). 
XXX. 2 Section hands 

(men). 
XXXI. 45-60 Weavers (men 

and women). 
XXXII. 1 Calendar (man). 
XXXIII. 1 Folder (man). 



Fifty-five to 70 additional employees will be 
needed, practically all above 16 years of age. 
The drawing-in girls and an occasional weaver 
may be younger. It is obvious that the pro- 
portion of children in a yarn mill is much larger 
than in a cloth mill. In a mill where no spin- 
ning is done, as in many mills around Phila- 
delphia, the number of children will be small, 
almost neghgible; but as the proportion of 
spindles grows, the number of children grows 
with it. 

This is particularly true when the spinning 
is done upon ring frames. It is not so true 
where the mules are extensively used. The 
''mule," which is to-day simply an elaboration 
of Crompton's original invention, has the 
spindles attached to a movable carriage which 



132 FROM COTTON FIELD TO COTTON MILL 

travels away from the rollers which deliver 
the roving, and in this progress receives its 
twist equally. The yam is wound evenly 
upon the spindles as the carriage returns. 
The regularity of tension causes less breaking 
of the yam. Much finer yam can be spun upon 
mules than upon frames for this reason. Num- 
bers 60 to 100 is the Hmit upon frames, while 
number 500 may be spun upon mules. ^ The 
yam is also softer and for some purposes is 
indispensable. Only men or exceptionally 
strong women can operate these machines, 
sometimes containing 1500 spindles, and a 
high degree of skill is necessary. The process 
is more expensive and the product per spindle 
is less. So far the Southem mills have been 
occupied chiefly with the lower numbers, and 
few mules are in operation. In New England 

^ In the notation of yam the iinit is the relation of the 
"hank" of 840 yards to the pound. Number 20 yam 
means that 20 hanks each of 840 yards will be required to 
weigh a pound; number 36, that 36 hanks will weigh a 
pound, and so on. It is obvious that the lower numbers are 
the coarser. 



THE OPERATIVES AT WORK 133 

a large proportion of the spindles are upon 
mules (4,477,199; compared with 8,373,788 on 
frames ^), and this has something to do with 
the proportion of children employed, entirely 
regardless of any legal enactments. Where 
a class of operatives cannot be used profitably, 
economic law alone will prevent its employ- 
ment. 

The hours of labor in the North Carolina 
mills are long. Before the passage of the act 
of 1903, limiting the number of working hours 
in a week to 66, the length ranged from 63 to 
75, with the average close to 69. In the early 
days of manufacturing there was no objection 
to these long hours. The length of the day in 
the fields during the summer was much longer. 
"From sun-up to sun-down" was a rough 
method of measuring the working day of the 
unskilled laborer. Since the work in the mills 
required much less muscular exertion, the hours 
were not considered excessive. The fact that 
this longer day in the fields was in force for only 

» Census 1900, BuUetin 215. 



134 FROM COTTON FIELD TO COTTON MILL 

a part of the year, was not considered. Since 
the operatives did not complain, and, in fact, 
petitioned against a change, the pubhc was not 
incHned to interfere. The feeling that a con- 
tract for wages and hours is a matter for the 
parties immediately concerned, was strong. 

With the agitation for shorter hours and an 
age limit, came strong opposition from all 
parties directly concerned. The legislature of 
1901, however, would have passed a bill, but 
for an agreement signed by most of the mills, 
limiting the hours of labor to 66, and the mini- 
mum age of operatives to 12 years. This 
agreement was not faithfully kept, and the 
legislature of 1903 enacted the present law.^ 

Since the passage of the act limiting the week 
to 66 hours, the following scheme has been 
followed. The day operatives enter the mill 
at six in the morning and work 12 hours, 
with an intermission of 30 to 45 minutes 
for dinner at noon, on 5 days of the week. 

^ For further discussion, see the chapter on Child Labor, 
p. 219. 



THE OPERATIVES AT WORK 135 

On Saturday they work from six until twelve. 
The night operatives work from six-thirty or 
six-forty-five until six in the morning, with 
an intermission of 15 minutes at midnight. On 
Saturday night, of course, work stops at twelve. 

Night work has been almost universal, par- 
ticularly in the spinning department, though 
it is now decreasing. The spinning frames 
have been run 22 or 23 hours in every- 
day. This has been done to keep up with 
orders and to wear out the machinery. 
Night work is always inferior to that done by 
day. The best operatives will not usually 
work at night, and many of those who do, can- 
not or will not take sufficient sleep during the 
day. The younger operatives are more careless 
and inefficient. Not so much is accomplished, 
though the wages per hour are always higher. 
During especially profitable periods mills 
have sometimes run only 5 nights while pay- 
ing for 6. 

But even if the percentage of profit on the 
night work is much smaller, it may be counted 



136 FROM COTTON FIELD TO COTTON MILL 

as profit in the total production of a machine. 
Improvements in machinery have come so 
rapidly that a machine can seldom be run until 
it is no longer capable of effective work. While 
it is still in good condition it is supplanted by an 
improved pattern, which the constant com- 
petition of the new mills forces the older ones 
to install. 

The used machinery, though in good order 
and capable of good work, must be sold for a 
small fraction of its cost, or else discarded 
outright and sent to the scrap heap. By run- 
ning it both day and night a greater propor- 
tion of the total effective productivity may 
be utihzed. Many shrewd operators do night 
work for this reason. The social disadvantages 
appeal so strongly to others, that only when the 
lure of profits is tempting, do they yield to the 
pressure, while some mills have never run at 
night at all. 



CHAPTER VIII 

WAGES AND COST OP LIVING 

In studying the economic condition of a 
people, it is necessary, before pronouncing 
judgment, to consider status, environment, 
and inherited customs, as well as purely mate- 
rial considerations. This is difficult, since the 
temptation is unconsciously presented to trans- 
fer one's own standard of comfort in his own 
station, or in his own locality, to the locahty 
to be studied, and measure the condition of a 
population by it absolutely. 

The fact that necessities in one section may 
be absolutely superfluous in another, is dis- 
regarded. An item which forms a considerable 
part of the budget in one place may be lacking 
entirely in another. Food, dress, etc., are 
regarded differently, owing to training, habits, 
and former manner of life. Comparisons be- 
tween workmen in different localities are ren- 

137 



138 FROM COTTON FIELD TO COTTON MILL 

dered valueless by this lack of discrimination. 
The necessity of taking all these things into 
account is a part of elementary economics in 
its relation to hfe, but it is constantly neglected. 

So, in studying the economic condition of the 
factory operatives of North Carolina, we must 
take into consideration, as well as their wage, 
the demands made upon that wage by the 
cHmate, the cost of subsistence, and the pre- 
vailing ideas of comfort and luxury not only 
in the operative class, but among the popula- 
tion in general. Care must also be taken to 
study the problem broadly and not emphasize 
some comparatively insignificant part of it, to 
the neglect of more important considerations. 

The factory population was born upon the 
farms, or is only one generation removed. 
The operatives have come to the mill with 
generations of fixed rural habits behind them, 
and necessarily are greatly influenced by their 
past. The problem of adjustment is more than 
to adjust the younger generation. 

Their standard of hfe was simple if not low. 



WAGES AND COST OF LIVING 139 

There was food enough to satisfy hunger; 
there was clothing enough to give warmth; 
there was fuel enough for the great fireplace, 
though to keep the houses thoroughly warm 
in every part, while the wind whistled through 
the chinks and crevices, was almost impossible. 
The snow sometimes sifted through, but there 
was covering for the feather beds. Judged 
by the standard of the city dweller, their lot 
was intolerable, but they did not know it. 

Luxuries bought with money were few. 
Many farmers who live in comparative comfort 
do not handle $200 in cash in a year. The 
chief money crops are a few hundred pounds 
of tobacco, or a few bales of cotton. The 
greater part of the food supply is raised upon 
the farms. Chickens and eggs or vegetables 
may be exchanged for sugar and coffee, but 
there has been no development of the truck- 
ing industry in the Piedmont section. 

When they come to the mills, they live 
generally in the houses built by the corporation, 
though some employers urge their operatives 



140 FROM COTTON FIELD TO COTTON MILL 

to buy or build homes of their own. These 
tenement houses contain two to six rooms, 
rarely more, and more than one family sel- 
dom occupies a house. They are detached 
frame structures, built upon brick pillars. 
The rooms are either plastered or finished in 
the natural pine. They are fitted with open 
fireplaces in the larger rooms, and perhaps 
stove flues in the smaller. The lot is usually 
about haK an acre, and the frontage 100 feet, 
though occasionally not more than 75. 

When the mill is built in the woods, the trees 
are left for shade, but oftener some bare, 
worn-out hillside is the site of the village. 
Little grading is done, and the supporting 
pillars on one side may be six feet higher 
than on the other, giving the house the ap- 
pearance of being perched upon stilts. One 
magazine editor on a tour through the mill 
region was more impressed by this than any 
other sight. The fact that the houses had no 
cellars, seemed to him proof of squalor and 
wretchedness. 



WAGES AND COST OF LIVING 141 

As a matter of fact, few Southern houses 
have cellars. In some sections it is difficult to 
keep out the water, the climate does not make, 
a cellar necessary for storage, and few houses 
have furnaces. The most expensive houses in 
a small Southern town will be built entirely 
above the ground, on brick or stone pillars, 
though usually these are connected by lattice 
work. 

These mill houses have no running water, 
as few villages have a water system. Water is 
generally secured from wells, though occa- 
sionally from hydrants. The privy on the lot 
may be an unpleasant feature. A mill village 
is often monotonous. The general style of 
the houses and the colors are similar. Often 
streets and sidewalks are neglected, and the 
whole atmosphere may be depressing. 

These houses are usually rented at a flat rate 
per room, regardless of desirabihty of location. 
A four-room house will cost 50 cents to $1 
per room per month, i.e. $2 to $4. The rate 
is seldom higher, and at some mills no rent at 



142 FROM COTTON FIELD TO COTTON MILL 

all is charged. Houses are allotted in order 
of application, subject to an understood rule 
that a house must furnish one operative for 
each room, or at least two operatives for three 
rooms. When the demand is pressing a small 
family, or one from which few members work in 
the mill, may be unable to secure a large house. 

So far as convenience and comfort are con- 
cerned, these houses, when new at least, are 
superior to those in which the operatives lived 
in the country. Of the houses themselves, 
there is httle complaint. Often the location, 
the comparative crowding, the lack of shade, 
are causes of regret to the tenants. 

The houses are often somewhat bare of fur- 
niture. The newcomers bring little to the 
mills, and that of the rudest description, but 
additions are soon made. The more pros- 
perous have a parlor, with a center table on 
which lies a large family Bible and a few ex- 
pensive books bought from agents. Bright 
lithographs, or a perforated cardboard motto, 
"God Bless Our Home," are upon the walls. 



WAGES AND COST OF LIVING 143 

Perhaps the "company bed," with its huge 
embroidered pillow shams, stands in one corner. 
The operatives dress well, or at least have 
good clothes for Sundays and holidays. In 
the mills these are not worn, any more than 
a machinist would wear his best in the grime 
and oil of the shop. During at least half the 
year the children are barefoot, as they were in 
the country. The clothing of a boy in summer 
is limited to the same two necessary garments 
worn by his country cousin. The men go to 
their work in garments white with lint, and 
work in their shirt sleeves. The girls have 
working clothes which catch as little of this 
lint as possible, but all have better clothes 
than they wear daily. In fact, there is a 
decided tendency to extravagance in dress, 
particularly among the girls. They are stu- 
dents of style and follow the fashions observed 
on the streets, generally emphasizing colors 
and modes. Many overdress, and wear too 
many and too harshly contrasting colors, and 
too many ornaments. 



144 FEOM COTTON FIELD TO COTTON MILL 

Though not always well chosen, the food of 
the operatives is abundant. In the sparsely 
settled country districts, butcher's meat was 
uncommon. Beef was had only at infrequent 
intervals when a farmer killed an animal and 
supplied his neighbors. Mutton also was rarely 
seen, since the number of worthless curs owned 
both by negroes and whites makes the raising 
of sheep hazardous. There are few fish in 
the streams in the middle section, and salt 
mackerel was almost the only kind known to 
the farmer's table. 

Pork was the chief dependence, fresh at 
*'hog-kilHng time," which comes after the 
weather has grown cold enough to insure pres- 
ervation and salted for the remainder of the 
year. Occasionally rabbits, squirrels, and quail 
were upon the table, but the staple meats were 
pork and chicken. 

The list of vegetables is not long: cabbage, 
corn in season, beans, potatoes, both white and 
sweet, tomatoes, cucumbers, and onions, with 
fruit and berries for pies make up the Ust. 



WAGES AND COST OF LIVING 145 

For winter use cabbage was banked or made 
into kraut, berries and fruits were dried, and the 
other vegetables were kept so long as possible. 
As some of these do not keep well, sometimes 
for months in the late winter and early spring, 
the usual food was salt pork three times a day, 
varied occasionally by eggs or chicken, with 
few or no vegetables. 

After the move to town, there is httle change 
in the menu for a time, but gradually additions 
are made; The flour in the country was often 
ground at a buhr mill and was not perfectly 
white. The family begins to use fine roller 
flour, though it may be tinged yellow with soda. 
Fresh fish are bought. Canned fruits and 
vegetables form an agreeable addition, and are 
used extensively. Pickles and preserves are 
bought in large quantities. The operatives are 
large consumers of fruit and vegetables out of 
season, though they may put the strawberries 
into a pie. 

With the staples there is less change. The 
cooking was generally bad in the country and 



146 FKOM COTTON FIELD TO COTTON MILL 

it remains bad in town. The mother had the 
help of her daughters there, while in town she 
may be so hurried that she has not time to 
prepare the food properly. The frying pan 
is almost universal. Ham, bacon, sausage, 
chicken, eggs, come to the table swimming 
in grease. The best steaks are bought, but 
they are cut thin and fried to a crisp. Soup 
is rarely, almost never, seen. The vegetables 
are often boiled with the bacon and are greasy. 
The pie crust may be soggy, and the huge, yel- 
low soda biscuits as well. Molasses in large 
quantities is consumed both in the country and 
in the town. 

Conditions in the second generation improve 
little. The more expensive foods have become 
a part of the standard of life, but the cooking 
may not be better. The girl who has worked 
in the mill from childhood until her marriage 
can know httle of housekeeping, and very often 
is unable to gain knowledge from experiment. 
Her utensils are better, however, and some 
learn. 



WAGES AND COST OF LIVING 147 

In the country the open-air hfe aided the 
stomach to perform its difficult task. When 
the same food is eaten by those who have spent 
the whole day indoors, the stomach revolts. The 
faces and carriage of many give evidence of 
malnutrition. The craving for pickles and 
sweets is gratified excessively with disastrous 
results. Of course, this description is not 
universally applicable. In many cases the 
food is well chosen and well prepared, but 
oftener conditions are as stated above. 

The factory population is obviously not 
stinted, so far as the kind and quantity of food 
is concerned. Other inhabitants of the town, 
clerks, mechanics, and artisans, spend hardly 
so much per capita, though the results gained 
may be greater. 

How can the operatives spend so much upon 
food? First, because the item of rent is 
almost ehminated, forming, as it does, only a 
tenth or a fifteenth of the total income ; second, 
the amount spent for dramatic and musical 
performances, books, magazines, and other 



148 FROM COTTON FIELD TO COTTON MILL 

cultural expenses is small; third, because 
little is saved. Though the family may have 
come with the expectation of accumulating 
enough to pay off a mortgage or to buy a 
farm, in rare instances is any considerable 
portion of the income laid by. 

In the Appendix will be found a table of aver- 
age wages paid for the different operations.* 
The family wages depend upon the number, 
age, and efficiency of the workers. A few small 
unskilled famihes make less than $10 a week, 
while fewer make so much as $30. The fam- 
ilies accustomed to the irregularity of farm 
work, when they first come to the mill do not 
work so regularly as those whose rural life 
has become a memory. The average family 
wage is between $10 and $15, since the famihes 
b}'- a natural process of selection are large. 
There is, of course, no car fare to pay. 

In a typical, prosperous mill family the 
weekly wages hst was as follows: father, $4.50; 
daughter, twenty-one years, $4.50; son, nine- 

* Appendix A. 



WAGES AND COST OF LIVING 149 

teen, $5.40; daughter, sixteen, $3.60; son, 
fourteen, $3; total $21, from which $1.50 
weekly only was paid for rent. Three years 
before the amounts received were, respectively, 
$4.50, $3.60, $4.50, $2.40, $2.40, a total of 
$17.40. 

Another family consisted of a widow and four 
children. The oldest, a girl of twenty, earned 
about $6.50 a week, while a sister of eighteen 
and a brother of seventeen earned about $4.25 
each. The youngest daughter, a child of four- 
teen, had not worked regularly in the mill, but 
had occasionally assisted her sisters, coming and 
going when she pleased. Here, of total weekly 
wages of $15, $1.25 went for rent. 

These are, of course, the more prosperous 
families. One widow whose two children to- 
gether earned less than $5 a week managed 
to exist by taking two boarders who paid 
perhaps $3 a week additional. Obviously the 
margin was very narrow, and sickness would 
reduce the family to want. 

In spinning and weaving, a general average 



150 FROM COTTON FIELD TO COTTON MILL 

of wages can be secured with difficulty, since 
the pay depends upon the number of machines 
operated, or upon the quantity of goods pro- 
duced. Where there are such wide differences 
of skill, the variations in pay are hkewise great. 
The late Professor Mayo-Smith clearly showed 
that any table of average wages is practically 
meaningless where much variation exists. 

In spinning, for example, the pay depends 
upon the number of ''sides" tended. A learner 
may have for a few weeks only one or two 
sides. (The stories of children working for 10 
to 20 cents a day have this much founda- 
tion.) A few months later the same girl will 
be tending four sides, with a corresponding in- 
crease in wages, and good spinners tend more. 

Weaving is paid by the '' cut," the length of 
which varies with the goods, the market for 
which it is designed, etc. An unskilled weaver 
with few looms may make no more than $2.50 
a week, while an expert may receive $9, 
which is close to the maximum. 

Comparison with the average wages paid in 



WAGES AND COST OF LIVING 151 

New England is difficult, since the work is often 
not comparable. The expert male mule spinner 
upon fine yams cannot justly be compared with 
the raw girl producing coarse numbers upon 
ring frames. The skilled weaver upon "fancy" 
cloth belongs to a different division from the 
producer of coarse gray sheeting. As yet the 
larger number of the mills in North Carolina 
is occupied with coarse goods on which great 
skill is not required, while the wages of the 
highly skilled operatives of New England raise 
the average there. The individual earnings in 
New England are undoubtedly larger than in 
North Carolina. The Census reports gave the 
median wage instead of the average, i.e. the 
wage standing midway between the highest 
and the lowest. Beamers and slasher tenders 
received in New England $10.50 weekly com- 
pared with $6 in the South as a whole; 
card hands $7 compared with $4.50; male 
weavers $7.50 compared with $4.50; female 
spinners $6 compared with $3. The great 
difference for the last operation is partially 



152 FROM COTTON FIELD TO COTTON MILL 

due to the excessive number of young and 
untrained girls in the Southern mills/ 

For example, spinners in Fall River were 
found tending 10 sides of 112 spindles each, 
while the average was 8. In New Bedford 
some operatives had 1200 spindles.^ In few 
mills was the average number of sides to the 
spinner less than 6. In North Carolina the 
frames are somewhat shorter, few girls man- 
age 800 spindles, and the average is closer 
to 400. Undoubtedly, however, the rate paid 
was less in North Carolina, though not so much 
less as the wages received would seem to show. 

A more important question for the manufac- 
turer is that of comparative wages per unit of 
efficiency. That is, does the operative in North 
Carohna receive a smaller share of the total 
productivity imputable to labor? To settle 
the question, a careful study must be made 



* Census Bulletin 215. Wages in North Carolina have 
risen decidedly since 1900, however, and in many places the 
rate for spinning particularly is as high as in New England. 

^ Young, op. dt. 



WAGES AND COST OF LIVING 153 

of the comparative skill of workers, the amount 
of material wasted, and the state of the machin- 
ery both at the beginning and at the end of the 
period. An operative who gets from a machine 
a large percentage of its theoretically possible 
productivity may be cheaper at a high wage 
than one who gets much less per machine for 
similar work. The only trustworthy answer 
could be gained by comparison of results of 
mills under the same general management, 
but situated in different sections. 

That careful English observer, Mr. T. M. 
Young, already mentioned, has the following 
to say of Southern wages : ^ — 

" Wages are unquestionably very much lower and 
the truck system^ is almost universal, but whether 
the cost per unit of efficiency is greater in the South 
than in the North is hard to say. But for the auto- 
matic loom, the North would, I think, have the 
advantage. Perhaps the truth is that in some parts 
of the South where the industry has been longest 

' Young, "The American Cotton Industry" (1903). 
2 This is not true in North Carolina. Wages are paid 
in cash almost invariably. 



154 FROM COTTON FIELD TO COTTON MILL 

established, and a generation has been trained to the 
work, Southern labor is actually as well as nominally 
cheaper than Northern ; whilst in other districts, 
where many mills have sprung up all at once amongst 
a sparse rural population, wholly untrained, the 
Southern labor at present procurable is really dearer 
than the Northern. In any case I do not think that 
really cheaper labor can be counted on as a perma- 
nent advantage for the Southern cotton mills." 

In support of this judgment he cites weavers 
working side by side in a North Carolina mill, 
some of whom were producing barely three 
fourths as much to the machine as others. As 
that machine was expensive, the inferior labor 
was higher priced, though receiving the same 
per unit of product; and the fact of the em- 
ployment of inferior labor was obviously due 
to the scarcity of more efficient workers. He 
found, also, that both spindles and looms in the 
Southern mills ran more slowly than in the 
Northern. 

This does not mean that the labor is per- 
manently inferior, but the demand has been 
so great that an excessive number of totally 



WAGES AND COST OF LIVING 155 

unskilled workers has been brought into the 
industry, and a long period is necessary to 
develop a class. Already individuals equal to 
any work may be found, and in some localities 
a considerable number. The longer hours, too, 
allow somewhat larger production. Mr. Young 
found that a mill in Massachusetts produced 
in a week of 58 hours 1.35 pounds of yarn to 
the spindle, while a branch mill in the South 
produced in a week of 67 J hours 1.42 pounds 
of the same yarn. 

From the standpoint of the laborer, the im- 
portant consideration is the purchasing power 
of the wage, rather than its nominal size. A 
low wage in money may in reality be high on 
account of the smaller demands upon that 
wage. 

The tables given in the Appendix * cannot 
of course show absolutely the relative well-being 
procured by the expenditure of a given sum, but 
they have some force. The prices given for 
Massachusetts are from the Report of the Massa- 

* Appendix B. 



156 FROM COTTON FIELD TO COTTON MILL 

chusetts Bureau of Labor, and are for 1897 and 
1902, the latest procurable. The figures for 
North Carolina were obtained by averaging 
figures obtained from different mill towns. 

The third table ^ represents the prevailing 
prices in two similar towns with practically 
the same industries, one in Piedmont Carolina, 
the other in the Connecticut valley. The date 
is April, 1904. 

From the tables it is evident that the pur- 
chasing power of the dollar differs decidedly. 
Flour costs nearly the same, but the larger 
consumption of the cheaper corn meal (which 
is extensively used from choice by all classes 
in the South) makes the cost of bread less in 
North Carolina. Groceries generally show a 
sHght advantage in favor of New England. 
The lower price of coffee in North Carolina 
means, of course, the use of a lower grade. 

In meats there is a decided advantage in 
favor of North Carolina. In some cases the 
prices are little more than half. The general 

^ Appendix C. 



WAGES AND COST OP LIVING 157 

quality is lower, to be sure, since it is nearly 
all from animals slaughtered in the neighbor- 
hood ; but it is the best in the market, the same 
the employer eats. The consumption of pork 
is greater from habit, and it is cheaper, pound 
for pound, than beef. The same remarks apply 
to butter as to meat. The quality is not uni- 
form, but the operatives eat the best the market 
affords. Eggs are cheaper in North Carolina, 
though slowly rising in price. For years, ex- 
cept around the hohdays, ten cents a dozen 
was a standard price. During the summer 
vegetables are ridiculously cheap. There is 
usually land enough around the tenement for 
a garden upon which a family may raise a part 
of the supply, but oftener it is purchased from 
the store or from the farmers' wagons. 

Fuel is much cheaper nominally and actually. 
Both wood and coal cost less, and less is re- 
quired during the cold season. As all the cook- 
ing is done by wood, fire is kept in the stove 
only while meals are being prepared, and a 
decided saving is effected. 



158 FROM COTTON FIELD TO COTTON MILL 

Dry goods for equal qualities show a slight 
advantage in favor of New England. The wide 
variation of quality in woolen goods prevents 
exact comparison. Less clothing is required 
for comfort, however, in the South, and the ex- 
tensive substitution of cotton allowed by the 
climate makes considerable saving, though the 
North Carolina operatives may be clothed 
decently and suitably. 

In the matter of rent, the North Carolina 
operative has a great advantage compared with 
Massachusetts particularly. In some parts of 
New Hampshire and in the Connecticut town 
already mentioned the difference is not so 
marked. In the latter town, however, the 
dwelling place is not a separate house, but 
only one half to one sixth of a tenement, and 
the surroundings are neither so healthful nor 
so pleasant as in the North Carolina town com- 
pared. It may, perhaps, be objected that a 
comparison of city prices in Massachusetts 
with those in semi-rural communities in North 
Carolina is not fair. Wages are compared. 



WAGES AND COST OF LIVING 159 

however, and the North CaroHna mills are 
nearly all in small towns. If Uving is cheaper, 
it is to the advantage of the operative, and 
does not prevent a fair comparison of general 
conditions. 

A comparison of wages paid in other occu- 
pations in North Carolina is not to the disad- 
vantage of the factory worker. An average 
of the highest monthly wages paid to women in 
agriculture is $11.54, while that average in the 
mills is $27.04. The average wages paid to 
children in the mills was $10.66, while on the 
farms it was only $5.50. The average wages 
paid to able-bodied laborers on the railroads 
was 85 cents a day.^ 

A proof that wages do not bear hard upon 
the minimum of subsistence is the fact that 
the operatives have been induced to leave the 
farms, and that there is land to which they may 
return, and secure a subsistence no matter how 
unskillfully the labor is applied. These people 
are not city dwellers, to whom the country 

' Report, Bureau of Labor and Printing, 1904. 



160 FROM COTTON FIELD TO COTTON MILL 

is unknown. They have come from the farms 
and have not lost their connection with the 
rural community. 

In the spring of 1904, when cotton was ab- 
normally high, the possibiUty of closing was an- 
nounced to the operatives in Concord. Though 
the mills were not closed, the census taken for 
school purposes in September showed the loss 
of nearly 1000 persons, 10 per cent, of the 
population. A large majority of them had 
gone back to the farms to raise a crop of cotton. 
The low price of cotton drove them from the 
farms; the high price lured them back, but 
not to stay. Nearly all of them returned to 
the mills, after selling their crops at a much 
lower price than they had hoped to receive. 

But the importance of this point must be 
emphasized. The rate of wages must be in- 
fluenced by the presence of the land. The de- 
mands of industry are encroaching perceptibly 
upon the supply of farm labor available either 
for wages or for a share of the crops. The high 
price of agricultural products in 1904-1905 com- 



WAGES AND COST OF LIVING 161 

pelled a decided advance of wages in the cotton 
mills. 

One manufacturer reports that the amount 
of his weekly pay roll has increased twenty- 
five per cent, since the beginning of 1905.* 
While the increase in the rate of wages has 
perhaps not been so great in the state as a 
whole, the growing scarcity of labor is leading 
many employers to consider means of attract- 
ing foreign immigration. 

^ Letter, April, 1906. 



CHAPTER IX 

SOCIAL LIFE AND AGENCIES FOR SOCIAL 
BETTERMENT 

Life on the farms is lonely. Sometimes for 
days no outsider is seen, except the casual 
traveler along the roads, who halts to talk a 
few moments. It is not surprising that the 
farmer is always willing to stop and sit upon the 
fence to learn the news, or to make an excuse 
to go to the country store. Notices of pohtical 
meetings, an unexpected church service, a 
debate at the schoolhouse, and the Uke are 
spread by word of mouth. Each hstener then 
continues to ''put out the word" until the 
whole neighborhood is notified. 

But such occasions are comparatively infre- 
quent. The family is thrown almost entirely 
upon its own scanty resources. Books are 
few, and many families receive no newspaper. 

162 



SOCIAL LIFE 163 

Perhaps the children turn over and over again 
their school books until they know them al- 
most word for word. Many of these children, 
in spite of the short school term and, fre- 
quently, of inefficient teachers, at sixteen are 
as capable as the city children who have at- 
tended for terms twice as long. 

In the country the influence of the church 
is strong. There is now more Puritanism in 
the South than remains in New England. The 
Scotch-Irish Presbyterian held a stern doctrine, 
and Drumtochties are still to be found. 
Though the Methodists and Baptists have 
added an emotionalism foreign to the old 
Presbyterian temperament, their rules of con- 
duct are no less strict. The instance of a good 
woman who gave to her neighbor's children the 
nuts from a tree in her yard, provided they 
would promise not to crack them on Sunday, 
is not an isolated survival. There are thou- 
sands like her. Practically every resident of 
a rural community is connected with some 
religious denomination. 



164 FROM COTTON FIELD TO COTTON MILL 

Naturally the loneliness, and the strictness of 
the imposed code, make a serious population. 
There is little spontaneity or hilarity in the 
ordinary rural gathering. Men, women, and chil- 
dren are usually sedate and quiet, almost grave. 
There are instances of reaction, of course, in- 
dividuals who break away, whose spirits cannot 
be confined nor restrained. When they have 
offended against one social or ethical conven- 
tion, they may be ready to offend in all. But 
viewing them in the large, these small farmers 
exhibit little of the ^^joy of Ufe." 

They come to the mill, and begin a new Hfe. 
In the monotonous little mill village, they find 
excitement, and their starved social natures 
are gratified. The mothers talk from the 
windows or the piazzas with the neighbors as 
all go about their household tasks. Those in 
the mill are associated with their fellows, even 
though the noise and the nature of the work 
forbid much conversation. The children not 
in the mill have playmates. 

Though the dwellers in the factory village 



SOCIAL LIFE 165 

meet thus incidentally or at the church services, 
there is Httle formal social intercourse. The 
young men and the young women are together 
on Saturday afternoons and upon Sunday. Some 
take walks, and all the horses in the Hvery 
stables are engaged for drives on Sunday after- 
noons. Parties are rare. After the long day's 
work, bedtime must come early. The elders 
frown upon both dancing and cards. In fact, 
much of the old Puritanism which holds that 
any amusement whatever is wrong, or at least 
of doubtful propriety, still survives. This at- 
titude may persist, though the church services 
are no longer so scrupulously attended. 

This is particularly true in the rural mills, 
where the whole village is dependent upon the 
enterprise. Many managers are strict moralists 
of an old-fashioned type, who hold themselves 
responsible for the conduct of their operatives 
and attempt to control it in some particulars. 
Only those families who are willing to observe 
the regulations are kept, and the village often 
takes a somewhat austere tone. 



166 PROM COTTON FIELD TO COTTON MILL 

It is easy to take cognizance of the conduct 
of the operatives outside the mill. In the 
factory village there can be little separation of 
private and industrial Ufe. The houses are 
close together. Every one knows every one 
else, and can estimate the family income to a 
dollar a week. Every action almost is known, 
and fancied or real immorality cannot be long 
concealed. 

The moral atmosphere of the mill settle- 
ments varies. At some old mills which have 
gotten a bad name through the carelessness or 
indifference of the manager or superintendent, 
and to which self-respecting operatives refuse 
to go, conditions are undoubtedly bad. The 
best operatives will not go where the tene- 
ments are bad, and sometimes short-sighted 
economic policy leads the managers to take 
the operatives that will come, instead of im- 
proving conditions. The less scrupulous opera- 
tives naturally tend to gather at the mills in 
the larger towns, where less supervision can be 
exercised. 



SOCIAL LIFE 167 

At a great majority of the mills the atmos- 
phere is clean. The testimony of unprejudiced 
Northern observers is quoted elsewhere, as 
have been examples of the scrupulousness of 
the operatives in money matters. As a result 
of whisky iUicitly procured, sexual jealousy, 
or a hasty word, personal encounters sometimes 
occur, but they are seldom serious. The opera- 
tives marry young, and sexual immorahty is 
not common. 

The sweeping indictment against the chastity 
of the mill girls made in a recent novel, purport- 
ing to describe life in the Southern mills, is 
cruelly unjust.^ There are many individual 
cases of unchastity, of course. No claim of 
universal purity is made for them. The con- 
ditions of the work, the crowding, the neces- 
sarily close association with the men would 
supposedly have a tendency to diminish maid- 
enly reserve. There is vulgar conversation 
sometimes, and perhaps occasional profanity; 

» Van Vorst, " Amanda of the Mill " ( 1 905) . As a picture 
of conditions, the book is untrue, and shows either ignorance, 
or perversion of facts for literary effect. 



168 FROM COTTON FI^LD TO COTTON MILL 

but the overwhelming majority of the factory 
girls in the North Carolina mills are virtuous, 
and follow the right so far as they know it. 

In many mills the girls themselves make up 
an unofficial committee for the protection of 
social purity, and allow no offender to stay. 
In one mill where any deviation was punished 
by the discharge from the mill of the whole 
family and eviction from the tenement, the 
necessity for the infliction of the penalty did 
not arise for more than five years. Yet the 
population had changed considerably during 
that period, for the operatives can and will 
move upon an hour's notice. 

This readiness to move is a symptom of 
social unrest arising from lack of adjustment 
to environment. The family, when it comes to 
the mill, may regret the loss of some of the ad- 
vantages of the country it has left, and moves 
to another village in search of more satisfactory 
surroundings. Faihng, the fault is attributed 
to the particular mill instead of the life itself, 
and other removals are made until the desire 



SOCIAL LIFE 169 

for constant change becomes chronic. The 
most trivial happening serves as an excuse. 
One man who moved his family sixteen times 
within five years gave as his reason for one of 
these transfers the fact that the wages of one 
of his children had been reduced ten cents a 
day. Such a record is fortunately unusual. 
On the other hand, a mill manager made special 
gifts a few years ago to a number of operatives 
who had worked in his mill more than twenty- 
five years. Yet the mill families often change. 
In a row of seven houses in one town only two 
had been occupied by the same tenants for 
more than a year, and some of the others had 
been occupied by three or four families in turn 
during that period. These tenements were in 
a large town, however, and were unsatisfactory 
from several standpoints. 

Naturally such migratory families add little 
or nothing to the strength of a community, 
and are almost certainly a source of weakness. 
They send down no roots into the soil, form no 
real connections with their fellows about them. 



170 FROM COTTON FIELD TO COTTON MILL 

The children lose whatever opportunities of 
education they might have had, and the church 
connections of the family are weakened or loosed 
altogether. Such a family does not make 
up a part of the pubhc opinion, nor does it 
feel its full restraining force. The result is 
often a weakening and lowering of ethical 
standards. Such frequent removals bring loss 
of household comforts, which are destroyed or 
thrown away. A considerable portion of the 
family earnings is spent in transportation. 
Though the mill to which they go often advances 
the cost of removal, naturally the whole or a 
part of the cost is deducted from the future 
wages. 

No matter how dissatisfied such a family 
may be with its surroundings, and no matter 
how vain seems the search for a satisfactory 
location, it seldom, almost never, returns to 
the farm. The reason is perhaps complex. 
The greater apparent earnings, even though the 
family wages may be spent before they are 
paid, make possible the enjoyment of certain 



SOCIAL LIFE 171 

comforts and luxuries unknown upon the farm ; 
to return would seem a confession of failure, 
and they are still sensitive to the opinion of 
the neighborhood they left. Greater than all 
else is the morbid craving for excitement and 
change — a feeling analogous to that which 
keeps certain sections of the city overcrowded. 

The formal agencies for social betterment at 
the North Carohna mills are the church and the 
school. Both are subsidized by the corpora- 
tion. In nearly every mill community outside 
of those incorporated towns which maintain 
an efficient school system, the mill erects a 
school building. A school is maintained en- 
tirely at the expense of the corporation, or 
the short term of the public school is extended 
to six or even ten months by an appropriation 
from the mill treasury. Sometimes in towns 
which have a satisfactory school system the 
mill builds schoolhouses near the mills for the 
convenience of the operatives, and the town 
maintains the schools. 

The lack of the reahzation of the dynamic 



172 FROM COTTON FIELD TO COTTON MILL 

condition of the industry sometimes causes 
unjustified criticism. For example, Mr. Young 
notes the fact that there was neither church nor 
school in the neighborhood of a large new mill 
just beginning operations in a rural section of 
North Carolina. Two years later the cor- 
poration had built a school to accommodate 
four hundred children at a cost of more 
than $6000, and had aided in the building 
of four churches. A school was maintained 
here eight months in the year, half of that time 
entirely at the expense of the mill, which also 
contributed to the salaries of the ministers. A 
hall for lectures and for services of denomina- 
tions without a church building was also con- 
structed. 

This is not at all an isolated case. Other 
mills have done quite as much. There is 
scarcely a mill settlement in the state which 
does not enjoy much greater educational op- 
portunities than the country districts, if only 
the children could be forced to attend. Some 
managers parade this support of schools and 



SOCIAL LIFE 173 

churches as philanthropy; others say it is a 
plain matter of business; that the mill which 
offers the greatest advantages will get more 
desirable operatives. 

The work done by these schools varies. In 
some the children are well taught and well 
trained. Where the schools are a part of 
the city system, the superintendent may give 
an undue proportion of his time to them on 
account of the difficulties presented. As the 
great majority are outside the jurisdiction of 
the town, there is too often a lack of wise direc- 
tion. Sometimes the teachers are needy rela- 
tives or friends of the mill officers and lack 
sympathy with the conditions. Occasionally 
they are of a stern, old-fashioned type, who 
might give valuable discipline if the children 
would attend. Usually they succeed only in 
driving the children away, as parents can hardly 
keep them in attendance against their will. 

The mill child seldom finds school such a 
welcome relief from monotony as does his 
country cousin. The instruction seems to him 



174 FROM COTTON FIELD TO COTTON MILL 

not vital, to touch his Hfe at too few points. 
There is more fun upon the streets or in the 
mill than in spending hours in a stuffy school- 
room. He has no traditions to urge him on, 
and the individuals he admires most may- 
have had httle or no schooling. 

The night schools estabhshed at a few mills 
either by the management or by individuals 
have done very little. The operatives are tired 
after the long day, and there is neither the 
economic pressure nor the thirst for knowledge 
which makes such an institution successful 
in the city. Gradually the attendance, which 
may have been satisfactory at the opening, 
lessens until the effort is abandoned. 

The churches are, next to the mill itself, the 
chief centers of community Ufe. The largest in 
membership are the Methodist and the Baptist. 
The Presbyterians and the Lutherans have 
organizations at some mills. The Episcopal 
church has never had a hold upon the rural 
population of the middle and western sections 
of the state, and prejudice against it has been 



SOCIAL LIFE 175 

assiduously cultivated. The number of Roman 
Catholics is neghgible. 

The power of the church is perhaps greatest 
in those communities where a large proportion 
of the operatives is fresh from the country. 
Often the manager may act as superintendent 
of the Sunday school, and use his powerful 
influence to aid the organization. At some 
mills the corporation itself acts as collecting 
agent and deducts from the wages the subscrip- 
tions which have been made for the support of 
the work. As a result of this poHcy, the 
ministers, who are often men of ability, receive 
their salaries promptly. 

The idea of the institutional church has 
gained no ground. The church authorities are 
conservative. The methods used in the country 
have not been changed to meet the new con- 
ditions. Two sermons on Sunday, a weekly 
prayer meeting, and the Sunday school, are 
universal. Perhaps there is a missionary soci- 
ety among the women or a ''Parsonage Aid 
Society," and some organization of the young 



176 FROM COTTON FIELD TO COTTON MILL 

people. These, however, meet with opposition 
among some of the older members who hold 
that no organization within the church itself 
is justified. Some of the Sunday schools have 
small hbraries. The books are usually bought 
in bulk, however, and are more distinguished 
for ethical and doctrinal soundness than for 
literary value. 

Old-fashioned orthodox sermons are the rule. 
The terrors of a literal burning hell, the joys 
of the righteous hereafter, are expounded with 
fervor. The emphasis is laid upon the life to 
come, and upon renunciation of the world, 
rather than upon a broader, fuller life upon 
the earth. One minister in charge of a cotton 
mill church in a burst of impatience ex- 
claimed to me that the mill managers did not 
wish the thinking powers of their operatives 
developed, but did wish them to be very 
rehgious. This statement is not entirely justi- 
fied, but undoubtedly the value of religion as 
an aid to discipline is fully recognized. 

Frequent '' revivals" are held by the Metho- 



SOCIAL LIFE 177 

dists and Baptists. The churches are filled 
every night for a week or more, and the services 
often last until a very late hour. A strange 
mixture of methods prevails. The '^ mourner's 
bench" at which those ''convicted of sin" 
may kneel, and the invitation to shake the hand 
of the minister as a token of conversion, are 
both used. The Moody and Sankey hymns, 
and the old tunes full of haunting minor chords 
which have done duty at camp-meetings for a 
century, are heard. Members kneel beside their 
young friends or move about exhorting them to 
"come to the altar." The air is electric with 
emotion, and the old-fashioned type of ''shout- 
ing Methodist" is not yet extinct. 

The pastors of these churches are earnest men, 
who work faithfully for their charges ; but the 
task is discouraging. Pastoral visiting is un- 
satisfactory, as often the whole family is never 
together except on Sunday, and the mother 
is busy when the call is made. If one family 
receives a disproportionate share of pastoral 
attention, the others are jealous. Infinite tact 



178 FROM COTTON FIELD TO COTTON MILL 

is required, and many ministers avoid so far as 
possible the care of factory churches. 

In spite of all the efforts, the testimony is 
universal that the churches are losing their 
hold upon the mill population. The migratory 
families neglect to bring letters of dismissal 
from their former churches, and gradually lose 
their interest in church work. With the in- 
creased incidental opportunities for association 
with their fellows the church services are no 
longer so important from a social standpoint. 
In the country, the monthly or semi-monthly 
services afforded an excellent opportunity to 
meet acquaintances and friends, who were 
seldom seen elsewhere. Then, too, the workers 
are tired on Sunday, and the day is more and 
more devoted to rest and recreation. 

Other agencies may be dismissed with a few 
words. At a few mills lecture courses are 
maintained, largely at the expense of the mill 
management. Theatrical amusements are 
under the ban. There are few concerts, ex- 
cept, perhaps, those given by the Sunday 



SOCIAL LIFE 179 

school. A very few mills have reading rooms 
which may serve also as clubhouses, but 
generally the management considers the work 
of furnishing amusement no part of its duty. 

More and more, however, the mills are en- 
couraging care in the surroundings of the 
tenements. Prizes are sometimes offered for 
the best-kept lawn and the most attractive 
flower or vegetable gardens. But vegetation 
does not thrive upon a sun-baked hillside, 
when there is no water system, and often there 
are few competitors. More attention is being 
paid to the surroundings of the mill itself, 
however, and some are very attractive. 

There is little to gratify aesthetic cravings 
around the mills generally. There is little 
pretense of architectural adornment of the 
mill itself. It is frankly utilitarian, an at- 
tempt to secure the maximum of space, light? 
and convenience at the minimum cost. The 
tenements are built with the same end in view, 
and all are staringly new, though vines may 
render some of the houses more pleasing, and 



180 FROM COTTON FIELD TO COTTON MILL 

more comfortable as well. Taken as a whole, 
however, the general impression given by the 
factory villages is usually one of monotonous 
ugliness. 

In all the social organizations the influence 
of the managers is apparent. The people have 
not learned the social results arising from co- 
operation and organization. Upon the farms 
the families were necessarily largely self- 
sufficient. Few forms of neighborhood activity 
were possible, and time is required for the reah- 
zation of the increased satisfaction which may 
arise from collective action. 

To prescribe remedies for the bareness of the 
lives of the mill population is difficult. The 
settlement idea is not the solution, even if it 
were practicable. Any gains would be more 
than offset by the weakening of the sturdiness 
and independence which would necessarily 
follow. The operatives are not willing to place 
themselves in the attitude of expecting and 
receiving unearned and gratuitous favors. 

The institutional church, wisely directed, in 



SOCIAL LIFE 181 

which they might feel a proprietary interest, 
would have its influence. A change in educa- 
tional policy, which would fit the instruction 
to the needs of the learners, would do more, 
particularly if accompanied by compulsory 
attendance. Social secretaries, if those suf- 
ficiently tactful could be found, might do much 
for the girls, who need wise direction. 

Meanwhile the arousing of ambition to live 
a broader, fuller life; the substitution of 
healthy discontent with that part of the en- 
vironment which is capable of improvement, 
for stolidity or unhealthy dissatisfaction with 
all the surroundings, is the problem of the next 
twenty years. 



CHAPTER X 

THE DEVELOPMENT OF A CLASS CONSCIOUSNESS 

From the earliest settlement, North Carolina 
has been marked by a decided individuahsm 
and independence of action. The attitude of 
the inhabitants toward the Proprietors and to- 
ward the king as well, was one of neglect and 
almost of contempt. A regulation not in ac- 
cordance with their ideas of justice was ignored, 
governors were driven out, and yet the com- 
munity as a whole was neither lawless nor 
turbulent. 

Their ideal of government was the theory 
afterward stated by Jefferson, that the best 
government is that which governs least. The 
people have always been jealous of their Uber- 
ties. Real or fancied oppression would cause 
an outburst. The citizens were ready to de- 

182 



DEVELOPMENT OF CLASS CONSCIOUSNESS 183 

clare their independence of Great Britain be- 
fore 1776, regardless of consequences, and when 
the stand was once taken, they could not be 
moved. 

The various elements of the population did 
not coalesce and, for that matter, have not done 
so yet. Every political convention sees a re- 
newal of the old contest. Sections, counties, 
neighborhoods, all stand for something defi- 
nite, if that be nothing more than an opposi- 
tion to change. The state has never been a 
unit except when some great idea fused the 
people for an instant. 

The first constitution was not a democratic 
instrument. Voting and office holding were 
confined to the landowning and the taxpaying 
classes. With them for a brief period the Whig 
party was influential, but the Democrats, ad- 
vised by Stephen A. Douglas, made stirring 
campaigns upon the issue of free suffrage and 
won just before the Civil War. 

But the influence of the Whig leaders was 
strong, even after their political power had 



184 FROM COTTON FIELD TO COTTON MILL 

departed, and when Demos came into control 
he was conservative. He was devoted to the 
Union, to his state, to his church, and to his 
poHtical party. He was unambitious, not 
easily moved by adverse circumstances, accept- 
ing the apparent inevitable with equanimity, 
almost with resignation.^ 

The people were opposed to secession, and 
the state did not leave the Union until forced 
out; and then held on doggedly, persistently 
to the end. No hardship, no deprivation, no 
sacrifice, was too great, yet attempts of the 
Confederate government to override the rights 
of the state were resented with spirit and 
effect.' 

After the war, the small farmer naturally 
called himself a Conservative, and afterward 
a Democrat. This did not mean so much the 
acceptance of a body of doctrine as the declara- 
tion of his behef in home rule and the dominance 

* For an illuminating study of the psychology of the 
North Carolina farmer, see Page, "The Rebuilding of Old 
Commonwealths" (1902). 

" " History of North Carolina Regiments," Vol. V. 



DEVELOPMENT OF CLASS CONSCIOUSNESS 185 

of the fittest. To this day some of the ''Old Line 
Whigs" dishke to call themselves Democrats. 

Yet the independence of thought is shown 
by the presence of a larger white Repubh- 
can vote than is cast in any other Southern 
state. Men have in the past braved ostracism 
for opinions to which they had somehow, per- 
haps with infinite difficulty, come. Naturally 
as with a conservative people, party labels 
have been inherited, but individuals break 
away. Slowly but surely the policy of the 
state has broadened. No backward steps 
have been taken. Every advance has been 
kept. If it has not moved so rapidly as others, 
it has made fewer dangerous experiments 
and fewer mistakes. While less legislation 
has been placed upon the statute books, less 
has been repealed. 

The shrinkage of agricultural values twenty 
years ago worked great hardships, which 
have been mentioned. To the farmer there 
seemed something wrong, and the succeeding 
Popuhstic movement appealed to him. 



186 FROM COTTON FIELD TO COTTON MILL 

Apparently governmental policies had favored 
certain classes, and he, too, joined the corn 
growers of Kansas in the demand for relief. 
But in all of this there was a certain hesita- 
tion. He was not sure of his ground, though 
he favored the Sub-Treasury scheme, in accord- 
ance with which the government should issue 
negotiable certificates based upon his prod- 
ucts, deposited in government warehouses. 
It was done for silver, why not for cotton? 

Yet this was not a conversion to Philo- 
sophic Socialism. He was simply demanding 
a '^ square deal." He captured the Demo- 
cratic party, but his leaders committed him 
to the Populist party, and his loyalty con- 
strained him to follow them; but not so far 
but that he could and did retrace his steps. 
The doctrine of free silver met with acquies- 
cence rather than with enthusiasm, and there 
were many hard-headed, poor farmers who re- 
fused to become converted to the fascinating 
doctrine. 

His difficulty was his inabihty to think 



DEVELOPMENT OF CLASS CONSCIOUSNESS 187 

consistently of himself as belonging to a class 
with distinct interests. He felt himself a 
citizen, equal to any one, and bowed no more 
to the tyranny of his own class than he did 
to the tyranny of aristocracy. The farmer 
legislator was no more inclined to pass spe- 
cial legislation for himself than for a corpora- 
tion. A certain intention of doing rough 
justice was inborn. Fairness rather than the 
desire for personal advantage was his dominant 
trait, next to his dislike of change. 

All this is not inconsistent with what has 
been said of the influence of individuals. 
They possessed the influence because they 
did not demand it, because a reputation for 
sanity and straightforwardness had been 
gained. The illiterate or unread man trusted 
them, not because he felt them his superiors, 
not because of any claims of descent, or of 
wealth, but because of his confidence in their 
wisdom, and in their character as citizens. 
No dishonest man has ever held political 
influence long in this state. 



188 FROM COTTON FIELD TO COTTON MILL 

When the farmer, for any of the reasons 
mentioned elsewhere, comes to dwell in the 
mill village, the difficulties of adjustment 
occupy him for a time. He cannot live his 
old Hfe, and his place has not yet been found. 
If he works himself, steady employment, 
day after day, rain or shine, contrasts strongly 
with the irregular employment on the farm. 
If he lives upon the earnings of his children, 
the unaccustomed leisure is no less strange. 

The substitution of a wage economy for a 
products economy is strange also. On the 
farm the family produced what it ate. At 
the mill it purchases with money what is 
consumed. The amount received, measured 
in money, is so much larger than the former 
income that an impression of prosperity is 
substituted for one of scarcity. This is true 
even where the residual income is no larger 
than it was upon the farm. 

The operative farmer may begin to question 
some of the labels which he has always borne. 
He begins to see more clearly the intimate 



DEVELOPMENT OP CLASS CONSCIOUSNESS 189 

connection of governmental policies with 
economic interests. One mill manager said, 
''My men are nearly all Republicans, if they 
only knew it." Party ties, though not broken, 
hang more loosely. Independent voting be- 
comes more common. 

Sociahsm makes little appeal to him. He 
hstens to an occasional missionary, but the 
arguments make little impression. For one 
reason he is too close to the soil; for another 
he has had in the state as a whole no real 
contest with the employer in which capital 
was arrayed directly against labor. In few 
counties has the Socialist party even a skeleton 
organization. In one county 84 votes were 
cast in 1902. In the whole state. Debs received 
only 124 votes in 1904, and few of these came 
from the cotton mills. 

As might be expected, a class not yet con- 
scious of itself affords sterile ground for labor 
organizations, which must be based upon in- 
dividual subordination. The workers have 
always acted as individuals and have not 



190 FROM COTTON FIELD TO COTTON MILL 

learned the power of collective effort, nor 
have they felt the compelling necessity. The 
right of a man to Uve his own Ufe, subject of 
course to the moral law, but unhampered by 
any other restrictions, seems to him obvious 
and natural. 

In 1897 the Arkwright Club of Boston pre- 
dicted the ruin of the New England industry 
unless the advantages of hours and wages 
in favor of the South were lessened. In 1899 
Mr. George Gunton, after a trip through the 
South, advocated the raising of a fund by 
Northern manufacturers to be spent in union- 
izing the Southern operatives, and there is 
reason to believe that some money was con- 
tributed for this purpose. 

Organizers from the North were sent through 
the South, and local organizers were appointed. 
Unfortunately for the cause, many of these 
local appointees were men of bad character, 
unfrocked clergymen and the like, who did 
not command the respect of the people. The 
protection of the American Federation of 



DEVELOPMENT OF CLASS CONSCIOUSNESS 191 

Labor was promised to the unions, and glow- 
ing prospects of shorter hours, increased pay, 
and greater privileges were pictured. Unions 
were organized in a number of mill settle- 
ments, though in no case did the organi- 
zation include the whole labor force. The 
operatives were generally content, particu- 
larly as wages had been increased about 10 
per cent, during the twelve months preceding. 

The managers immediately took counsel 
and agreed to act promptly. Heretofore 
they had managed their enterprises without 
dictation, and now felt that a crisis was at 
hand. The time was propitious for them. 
The market was overstocked, and many mills 
were either making very small profits or were 
operating simply to keep their force together, 
thankful if they could '^swap dollars." 

The first contest came in Greensboro. 
There the Northern owner of the Proximity 
Mill, who said that he had come South to avoid 
labor troubles and to be free from the tyranny 
of the textile organization, on learning of the 



192 FROM COTTON FIELD TO COTTON MILL 

existence of a union among his operatives, 
promptly closed his mill. The union was 
not prepared for such tactics, and was soon 
dissolved. 

An employee of the Erwin Mills at Durham 
left the mill on business for the union, though 
permission had been refused by an overseer. 
He was promptly discharged on his return, 
and, moved by a sudden impulse, the men 
went on strike. When an appeal was made 
for food for the strikers, a week or two later, 
Mr. Erwin announced that his contest was 
not with the men, but with unwarranted in- 
terference with his business, and authorized 
the merchants to issue supphes to all his em- 
ployees, including the members of the union. 
No man in the state has done more for the 
welfare of his operatives than he, and this 
fact, coupled with his somewhat quixotic 
action, soon caused the disbanding of the 
union. 

The strongest conflict occurred in Alamance 
County, where there were nearly twenty-five 



DEVELOPMENT OF CLASS CONSCIOUSNESS 193 

small mills, owned chiefly by the Holt family 
and its connections. The discharge of an 
unpopular overseer was peremptorily de- 
manded in the mill of the T. M. Holt Mfg. 
Co. The refusal resulted in a strike, and the 
operatives in another mill owned by the same 
company struck in sympathy, and further 
strikes were threatened. 

After consultation the representatives of 
seventeen mills posted the following notice 
during the latter part of September, 1900 : — 

Whereas, recent developments have shown that 
this mill cannot be operated with that harmony be- 
tween the owners and the operatives thereof, which 
is essential to success, and to the interests of all con- 
cerned, so long as the operatives are subject to 
interference by outside parties, this is to give notice 
that on and after the 15th day of October, 1900, this 
mill will not employ any operatives who belong to a 
labor union, but will be run by non-union labor only. 
All operatives who object to the above and will not 
withdraw from labor unions will please consider this 
as notice and vacate any house and premises, belong- 
ing to us, which they now occupy, on or before the 
15th day 9f October, 1900. 



194 FROM COTTON FIELD TO COTTON MILL 

The union at one mill weakened immedi- 
ately, but sixteen establishments were closed, 
and the manufacturers thus avoided piling 
up unsalable goods. Few of these mills had 
charged rents for tenements, and the strikers 
had been living in them rent free as usual. 
The order of eviction was not carried out 
strictly, but many operatives left, some to go 
back to the farms, some to other mills, chiefly 
in Georgia. 

The national organization took charge of 
the strike, and one Thomas was sent to take 
control. The mill owners absolutely refused 
to treat with him, however. Some aid was 
sent by the national organization, and more 
by the Southern unions ; but the demand was 
much greater than the supply. There were 
few houses for the strikers after their evic- 
tion, and no money to pay rent. No disorder 
occurred, and there was no call for the exer- 
cise of pohce authority. 

About the 15th of November desertions 
from the union forces were so numerous that 



DEVELOPMENT OF CLASS CONSCIOUSNESS 195 

the organization collapsed, and the workers 
sought to return as individuals. Many non- 
union operatives had already been employed, 
however, and these were not discharged. 
The vacant places were given to the least 
obnoxious of the strikers. 

Meanwhile a threatened strike at Fayette- 
ville had been crushed by similar tactics. 
At many other mills, meanwhile, employers 
discharged union men. Where this was not 
done, the unions were awed by the continued 
success of the manufacturers, and made no 
demands. A number of unions continued 
to exist ; but the number is gradually lessen- 
ing, and those still existing are weak. Some 
manufacturers will employ no union men. 
Others, who are confident of their strength, 
are indifferent. In a few mills, some of the 
operatives are secretly organized. 

Loyalty to the cause is not yet strongly 
implanted. In fact, it is hardly realized that 
there is a cause. To the average operative 
the gains from unionism are not balanced by 



196 FROM COTTON FIELD TO COTTON MILL 

the sacrifice of individual initiative, the right 
to independence of action. He is not yet 
ready to put the union before everything 
else. He does not feel that the spinner in 
Fall River or the weaver in Lowell are closer 
to him than the people of his own section 
even though they pursue different occupations. 
In 1903 the United Textile Workers practi- 
cally threw overboard the Southern unions, 
chiefly on account of failure to pay assessments. 

The opposition of the manufacturers has 
the same foundation as their opposition to 
restrictive legislation. They do not consider 
their business a public matter, and resent in- 
terference. They believe that the organiza- 
tion of their mills was an attempt to cripple 
them, on the part of their competitors, and 
that agitation for shorter hours, a national 
labor law, etc., arises from the same source, 
and not from any real interest in the welfare 
of their operatives. 

They have heard of the excesses of the 
unions in other sections, where strikes lasting 



DEVELOPMENT OF CLASS CONSCIOUSNESS 197 

for months are not uncommon. Their oper- 
atives have been generally content and have 
worked without friction. Naturally they 
wish to preserve this condition as long as 

4 

possible. For this reason many opposed any 
beginning of legislative interference. Few 
object to the law passed by the legislature 
of 1903, but they fear further encroachments 
upon their Uberty of action. 

The position is thus set forth by a prominent 
manufacturer: "The entering wedge has been made, 
and now we look for each successive meeting of our 
honorable law-makers, and guardians of the people's 
rights and liberties, to become more radical, until 
in the course of a very short time we shall see the 
' walking delegates ' in full force and control. Equal- 
ity of opportunity is the sole distinguishing feature 
of American civilization, yet we see a supposed con- 
servative body of representative North Carolinians, 
unknowingly abridging this principle of liberty and 
laying the mud-sills upon which will germinate unions 
and all of the attendant evils connected with the 
same, which are becoming dangerous not only to 
their original purpose but to our very government 
itself. Our competitors of the East are now very 



198 FROM COTTON FIELD TO COTTON MILL 

much entangled in the web of labor laws and desire 
that we be caught in the same net." 

Some manufacturers, ignorant of industrial 
history, believe that by united effort the unions 
can be kept out permanently. The inconsist- 
ency of their position does not occur to them. 
Others realize that the organization of the 
mills is a matter of time, that a class conscious- 
ness must develop more rapidly in the future ; 
but all are resolved to postpone the day as 
long as possible. 

Meanwhile there are signs of restlessness 
among the operatives, slight to be sure, but 
existent nevertheless. No particular griev- 
ances have yet been formulated. The ques- 
tions of shorter hours and decidedly larger 
wages have not yet become demands. In 
fact, they are hardly yet seen as possibilities. 
But there are signs of incredulity when the 
employer speaks of low profits or difficult 
sales. They wonder at the success of the 
manufacturer as yet, but envy may follow, 
and then questioning. 



DEVELOPMENT OF CLASS CONSCIOUSNESS 199 

When the operatives know no other life 
than that of the mill village, when the con- 
nection with the soil is broken, leaders may 
arise who will preach the ''war of the classes." 
Much preaching will be necessary, but the 
dormant class consciousness is already stirring. 
Already the operatives are beginning to think 
of themselves as a peculiar people. Many 
years, however, will be required to produce 
sharp Unes of distinction. There is too much 
inborn and inbred democracy for the final 
breach to appear in the immediate future. 



CHAPTER XI 

THE RELATIONS OF EMPLOYER AND EMPLOYED 

The relations of employer and employed 
in the small mills of the South, and of North 
Carolina particularly, differ from similar rela- 
tions in the older manufacturing sections, 
both in spirit and in detail. Manufacturing 
has developed so rapidly in an agricultural 
society that the relation is still one between 
individuals, and not between a corporation 
and a class. 

There is, as yet, no self-created aristocracy 
of mill owners, such as developed in England 
or New England with the growth of the cotton 
industry. The second generation seldom 
has charge of mills, and still more rarely the 
third. The active manager of the mill busi- 
ness, himself usually a stockholder, is not de- 
pendent upon non-resident stockholders. In 

200 



RELATIONS OF EMPLOYER AND EMPLOYED 201 

the small mills the manager, either the secretary 
or the president, often knows every operative 
both by sight and by name. He may know 
any kinship between different families, and may 
even know the quarrels and the love affairs. 

Often the manager and the operatives have 
many experiences and traditions in common, 
and share many of the same ideas. The 
stages in the progress of a mill manager are 
often from a farm to a country store, from 
the country store to a village, and then to the 
control of a mill. Possibly as a boy he played 
with individual operatives or with their parents 
in the country, and knows them for two gen- 
erations. At least he knows the general 
neighborhood from which they came, and 
can understand their point of view. I have 
heard an operative call a mill manager by his 
first name, without a suspicion of imperti- 
nence. There is, too, a certain clannishness 
among the Southern people, which sometimes 
has practical results. It is related of one 
successful manager of several mills, that he 



202 FROM COTTON FIELD TO COTTON MILL 

will always manage to find work for a family 
from the county in which he was born and 
began his business career. Then, too, there 
is the broader feeling that they are all of the 
same people — Southerners ; sharers in sym- 
pathy, history, and traditions. The general 
result is kindliness on the side of the employer, 
and loyalty on the part of the employed. 

Almost invariably in the smaller factory 
communities, and often in the larger, the 
house of the mill manager is near the mill 
and its tenements. The manager and oper- 
atives attend the same church and Sunday 
school. The manager's wife may be active 
in church work, and often visits every sick 
woman or child in the community. The 
manager may take an active part in the sup- 
port and management of the baseball team, 
practically the only form of athletics commonly 
found. When an operative is in trouble, he 
instinctively turns to the manager for advice, 
and usually receives aid as well. 

With the knowledge of the circumstances 



RELATIONS OF EMPLOYER AND EMPLOYED 203 

and the residences of every family comes 
inquiry if operatives are missing from their 
places. Miss Van Vorst totally misunder- 
stood the purpose of such inquiry in the 
sentimental and imaginative account of her 
experiences/ It is not prompted by harsh- 
ness but by the desire to secure the knowl- 
edge necessary for successful operation. 
When sickness comes, supplies are furnished 
from the store, if one is connected with the 
mill, or accounts are guaranteed at a neigh- 
boring store; fuel is provided; a doctor is 
sent, and funeral expenses are guaranteed. 
The mill is protected to some extent by the 
wages kept in arrears, but in any considerable 
illness this is soon swallowed up, and only 
the innate honesty of the operatives prevents 
loss.^ Sometimes the confidence is abused, 

1 " The Woman Who Toils " (1903), 

^ Wages are paid weekly or fortnightly, but generally for 
the previous period; i.e. an operative beginning work 
receives no pay until two periods, or else a fortnight and a 
week, have passed. Then wages are paid regularly. Notice 
of leaving is required, and if all the accounts due the mill 
have been settled, the arrears are paid at once. 



204 FROM COTTON FIELD TO COTTON MILL 

but oftener the workers return to the mill 
and pay the accounts/ 

Where the mill owner or manager will take 
the trouble he can usually influence the votes 
of his operatives on any question not imme- 
diately connected with the partisan politics, 
and sometimes even then. In 1896, as the 
result of a bitter local contest, the operatives 
of a large mill voted the Republican ticket 
sohdly. Such a departure from the usual 
course is rare, but on local questions the 
operatives vote with their employers. Many 
towns have laws prohibiting the sale of intox- 
icants through the powerful influence of the 
mill management, which demands them as 
aids to the regularity of operatives. In 
short, the relationship is more or less feudal. 
The manager is the strong man, who has 
forced himself to the front, and proves his 



* One superintendent informed the writer (1904) that 
within two years, during epidemics of grippe, he had guaran- 
teed accounts amounting to nearly $3000, of which he had 
been called upon to pay less than $5. 



RELATIONS OF EMPLOYER AND EMPLOYED 205 

fitness for leadership by his continued success. 
On the other hand, it is not fear which influ- 
ences the operatives. They follow leaders 
because they respect them, because it seems 
the natural course. Possibly it is inherent 
in Southern character to look to men rather 
than to an abstract consideration of relation- 
ship.^ The maintenance of such influence 
grows more difficult with the increase of popu- 
lation in the towns, unless the mill is upon 
the outskirts and has its own community 
Hfe. 

There are few mills where an operative 
having a grievance against an overseer cannot 
take it directly to headquarters and secure a 
hearing. The employer does not screen him- 
self behind office boys, but will deal with the 
operative man and man and not refuse him 
the opportunity to present his side of the case. 
Overseers are often overruled and discipHne 
is benefited rather than injured by such ac- 
tion. In spite of their deference to the man- 

* For further discussion, see Chs. VI and X. 



206 FROM COTTON FIELD TO COTTON MILL 

agement, the operatives are not servile. The 
expression often heard about a mill, '' 'pore/ 
but proud," is wonderfully descriptive. The 
pride is foolish oftentimes, but they will give 
up a position rather than submit to a real or 
fancied injustice. The confession of a mistake 
and its correction by the management will 
be less harmful to disciphne than sustaining 
a manifestly unjust act of a foreman. Of 
course, injustice may be done. The word of 
a superintendent or an overseer naturally 
carries more weight than that of a less impor- 
tant employee ; but an overseer no matter how 
great his technical quahfications cannot hold 
his position very long when disUked by any 
considerable portion of the operatives. The 
personal element is so important in the South- 
em mills that a good manager of "help" is 
more valued than a man having greater tech- 
nical knowledge without such tact. 

For this reason the importation of New 
England overseers has not been particularly 
successful. Apparently these are accustomed 



RELATIONS OF EMPLOYER AND EMPLOYED 207 

to look upon the operatives, during working 
hours at least, as a part of the mill equipment 
and to neglect personal peculiarities. They 
forget that they are not deaUng with crystal- 
lized mill traditions developed through a 
hundred years, but with individuals fresh 
from rural independence, engaged in a new 
industry. These individuals, while loyal 
and tractable, are at the same time restive 
under control. The case of the regular and 
the volunteer regiment presents some points 
of similarity, but the mill superintendent 
cannot hold his operatives against their will 
as the army officer is able to do. Another 
position is too easy to secure. 

Even if these operatives were only tenant 
farmers, large liberty of action was allowed, 
in details at least, and they cannot be treated 
as a mass when they come to the mill. A 
part of the difficulty experienced by the New 
Englander may be owing to the feeling of 
aloofness and to the sectional prejudice of 
the Southerner, particularly of the unedu- 



208 FROM COTTON FIELD TO COTTON MILL 

cated Southerner — an aloofness which would 
require a volume to explain. However, cer- 
tain individuals among the imported over- 
seers have been remarkably successful, and 
this would seem to show that the difficulty 
does not lie in sectional prejudice alone. No 
better explanation than that of the attitude 
and personality of the foreigner generally has 
been offered. 

There is little definite jealousy of the 
greater wealth of the operators. One may hear 
around the village many complaints of ''hard 
times," or of the smallness of the wages. The 
prices paid at the company store may be 
criticised, though, in fact, they are so much 
lower than those paid when buying ''on 
time" in the country, that this complaint is 
not heard so often as might be expected. 
The company store in North Carolina usually 
meets the competition of independent establish- 
ments and often attracts the custom of out- 
siders. Years ago operatives at many mills 
were paid in checks, good at the store, but 



RELATIONS OF EMPLOYER AND EMPLOYED 209 

redeemed in cash at unfrequent intervals. 
Prices were frequently exorbitant, but eco- 
nomic forces have brought great changes ex- 
cept in a few remote localities. The company 
store is no longer universal and often exists 
principally for the convenience of the oper- 
atives. A cotton-mill superintendent of wide 
experience states the opinion that the prices 
in the company stores generally range from 
5 to 10 per cent, lower than in the inde- 
pendent establishments/ and personal ob- 
servation seems to confirm this view. This 
is possible, since they cater to a definite trade, 
can estimate closely the volume of business, 
and sell only for cash or its equivalent. 

The justice of the local distribution of wealth 
is seldom questioned. They have seen the 
capitalist apparently create wealth unknown 
before. They saw the better market for 
wood; cotton, and farm produce follow the 
establishment of the mill. Their own wages 

' Interview, 1904. See also pamphlet, " Do Not Grind 
the Seed Corn" (National Child Labor Com., 1905). 
p 



210 FROM COTTON FIELD TO COTTON MILL 

buy comforts and luxuries unknown on the 
farms, and these outweigh to them the advan- 
tages of country Hfe. It is simply a phase of 
the problem which vexes the social student 
in the city, who laments the fact that people 
will not stay upon the farms, but prefer to 
live in crowded tenements. As the members 
of the family grow older, the income increases 
and a rising standard gives more satisfaction 
than a higher stationary one. Put into the 
succinct phrase of a native, ''It's not doing 
well, that makes people contented, it's doing 
better." More than all else, perhaps, these 
people and their ancestors have held land, 
and a land-holding population is not in- 
clined toward sociaUsm. As these tradi- 
tions of a rural past are lost, in the devel- 
opment of an operative class, two or three 
generations from the farm, and wants increase 
faster than the means of supplying them, 
changes will come. 

The attitude of the mill owners and man- 
agers toward the social welfare of the oper- 



RELATIONS OF EMPLOYER AND EMPLOYED 211 

atives is by no means uniform. At some 
mills much is done; at others, nothing except 
perhaps a subscription from the mill treasury 
to aid a struggling church. Existing agen- 
cies for social betterment are described and 
discussed in another place. What has been 
done is usually the personal expression of the 
man in charge who controls the directors 
while he is able to pay dividends. He has 
not been coerced by pubhc opinion, nor by 
the demand of the operatives themselves, 
nor by a sense of the collective responsibihty 
of the corporation. The pubhc as yet recog- 
nizes only two factors in industrial hfe, — the 
state and the individual. It has not become 
conscious of the corporation, nor fixed its re- 
sponsibihties. So far the corporation is only 
the men controlling it, and they are judged in a 
personal rather than in a corporate capacity. 

The corporation has not recognized its 
quasi-public character. The stockholders and 
directors still consider their relation to the 
operatives that of individuals. The duty of 



212 FEOM COTTON FIELD TO COTTON MILL 

an individual, they consider, is to pay the 
market rate of wages, and in addition to give 
personal kindness in misfortune and protec- 
tion in trouble. Their conception of the 
duty of a corporation is similar. The dif- 
ference between the condition of a few indi- 
viduals, with many outside interests, working 
for another individual, and that of a large 
body of operatives of both sexes and all ages 
in a community of their own, working, year 
after year, for a corporation, around which 
all their interests center, has not been real- 
ized. There are striking exceptions, particu- 
larly among the larger mills, but the corpo- 
ration idea is too new for any considerable 
growth of other sentiment. 

If the managers of the mills have not felt 
the obligation to provide elaborate agencies 
for social improvement, the operatives, on 
the other hand, have not definitely demanded 
them. They, too, are individualists, even 
though they have become gregarious. Many 
are ignorant of such things, and they are sus- 



RELATIONS OF EMPLOYER AND EMPLOYED 213 

picious of anything which smacks of patron- 
age. The Social Settlement, with the sense 
of superiority thinly covered with a veneer 
of fellow-feeling, would find Httle support 
among them. They have not yet become 
accustomed to expect that which does not 
come as a direct tangible result of their own 
labor. Social work in a factory community 
is difficult, requiring infinite tact. The ten- 
tative efforts put forth in some neighborhoods 
have often resulted in failure, to the discour- 
agement of the experimenters. This failure 
has not been caused so much by ingratitude 
as by independence. The operatives recog- 
nize no reason why these things should be 
done. Their employers are only men in bet- 
ter circumstances than themselves, and not 
a class raised above them from whom they 
must gratefully accept tokens of good will. 
The manager must come man to man if he 
wishes to influence them. 

These personal relations cannot endure. 
The isolation of the cotton-mill communities 



214 FROM COTTON FIELD TO COTTON MILL 

is already breaking up in a few localities. 
Heretofore the cotton mill often has been the 
only industrial establishment in the town or 
village; but wiih the rapid development of 
other manufacturing enterprises, the textile 
operative becomes only one of a number of 
industrial workers. Up to this time their 
association has been instinctive rather than 
rational. With the development of a class 
consciousness will come a weakening of one 
side of that relation to their employers which, 
for want of a better word, we have called feu- 
dal. On the other hand, the lessening of 
pride and independence among the weaker, 
and the development of dependents and 
paupers, is to be feared. 

The previous futile attempts to organize 
the mill workers are described in another 
place. With the development of a class 
consciousness, organization follows naturally. 
The employers are already organizing. The 
profits are smaller than ten years ago. In 
some lines there is overproduction; labor is 



RELATIONS OF EMPLOYER AND EMPLOYED 215 

not SO abundant, though the reserve is still 
large; the margin between the cost of the 
raw material and the price of the finished 
product is not so large. Each manufacturer 
can no longer be a law unto himself. Asso- 
ciations and understandings become common. 
These range from informal agreements among 
the manufacturers of a town, regarding em- 
ployment of operatives or the purchase of 
cotton, to larger organization attempting to 
control prices and production. 

The increasing complexity of his problems 
is working changes in the manufacturer. 
Individuals of a type before almost unknown 
in the South, though common in industrial 
societies generally, appear here and there. 
They are cold, shrewd, farsighted. Senti- 
ment in them does not interfere with the strict 
working of the principle of self-advantage. 
Sometimes he is a man whose family was long 
prominent poHtically or socially. The stress 
of circumstances following the Civil War 
possibly deprived him of educational oppor- 



216 FROM COTTON FIELD TO COTTON MILL 

tunities, and the struggle for existence has 
embittered him. The reaction from the old 
ideas is almost a revulsion. Scrupulous ex- 
actness in financial matters has been substi- 
tuted for carelessness; the desire for wealth, 
for political ambition; an eager activity, 
for ease and dignity. Perhaps he has studied 
the position of the entrepreneur in other sec- 
tions and discards former relations as South- 
ern provincialism. Sometimes this manager 
has come up from generations of poverty 
and hardships. He has conquered his ob- 
stacles and intends to make the most of his 
success. With these must be mentioned a 
few Northerners, who have come to the state 
to escape the restrictions in the North. 

This type of employer is not yet common 
and is not likely to become the rule. The 
personal element in Southern hfe is too strong. 
Meanwhile, however, his influence upon the 
managers of the older type must be felt. 
Another type, a compromise, will arise, which 
will deal with a new class of employees. In 



RELATIONS OF EMPLOYER AND EMPLOYED 217 

the inevitable contest for a larger share of the 
product, the operatives will, for a time, lose 
more in personal kindliness than they gain 
in wages or hours of labor. The organization 
of the employers will be perfected first. 
Slowly the operatives will sink their indi- 
vidualism and independence in an organiza- 
tion of which the benefits are not immedi- 
ately apparent. When the lesson is learned, 
the unions will be powerful. These men are 
physically fearless, are native to the soil, are 
capable of sacrifice for an idea, and there is 
always the land to which they may return 
if beaten.^ 

Undoubtedly many manufacturers do not 
realize that the older type of operative, or 
of father of a family of operatives, is passing, 
never to return. The changes in the attitude 
of the operatives are coming slowly, and are 
by no means uniform in different sections, 
or even in the same section. At one mill 

^SeeCh. VIII, p. 159. 



218 FROM COTTON FIELD TO COTTON MILL 

the old patriarchal relation continues; at 
another the labor force is constantly chang- 
ing, and the only bond is the "nexus of cash 
payments." 



CHAPTER XII 

THE CHILD IN THE MILL 

The impression that the success of the 
Southern mills has been built wholly upon 
the labor of children is widespread. Real 
and fancied descriptions have emphasized 
this view. The labor agitator, the profes- 
sional reformer, the yellow journalist, have 
joined in telling of '^ childhood blotted out 
to add a few more dollars to the dividends 
of aristocratic stockholders of hell's mills of 
the South." Certain phases have been seized 
as themes for fiction. 

The defenders of Southern conditions have 
resorted to denials, to heated denunciations 
of meddlers, to rose-colored descriptions, 
and to countercharges. Their answers have 
been little read except locally and have done 
little to modify the prevailing idea. A few 

219 



220 FROM COTTON FIELD TO COTTON MILL 

persons have endeavored to describe condi- 
tions faithfully and dispassionately ; but they, 
too, have made Httle impression, perhaps be- 
cause they have not sought to analyze the 
underlying causes. 

Now child labor is first of all an economic 
phenomenon and has existed through all 
stages of civihzation. The basis is economy 
of muscle and intelligence in applying to a 
given task no more of either than is necessary 
for satisfactory accomphshment. In Egypt 
and India, at the earhest periods of which we 
have any account, children had their tasks. 
They have had them in all agricultural socie- 
ties and have them to-day. 

Industriahsm does not create the phenome- 
non, but concentrates it, and changes the 
form, regularity, and intensity. A larger 
proportion of children is employed in an 
agricultural than in a manufacturing society. 
On farms nearly all children old enough to be 
of service work all day during a part of the 
year, and a part of the day during the whole 



THE CHILD IN THE MILL 221 

year. In 1880, before the growth of manu- 
facturing in North Carohna, 55.9 per cent, of 
the males between 10 and 15 were reported as 
being engaged in gainful occupations, com- 
pared with 55.1 per cent, in 1900, and 43.1 
per cent, of the total was still engaged in 
agriculture in this year. But even these 
figures, large as they are, do not represent 
the whole tiTith. Undoubtedly many far- 
mers did not report the names of all their 
children who performed services upon the 
farm. 

This has always seemed the natural state 
of things in an agricultural society. It is 
only when the people of a community have 
ceased to think in terms of agriculture that 
the discussion of child labor as an ethical 
and social problem begins. Only then are 
social considerations contrasted with the ap- 
parent economic advantages, and we find 
the theory advanced that no work whatever 
should be required of children. 

It is in an agricultural society suddenly 



222 FROM COTTON FIELD TO COTTON MILL 

engaged in manufacturing that we must study 
the employment of the child. The problem 
is not new. We shall find that the employ- 
ment of children in the North Carolina mills 
follows well-defined laws observed elsewhere, 
modified, however, by certain social and sec- 
tional idiosyncrasies, which must be consid- 
ered. 

The number of children engaged in manu- 
facturing is difficult to ascertain, even though 
their employment is confined chiefly to two 
industries, — textiles and tobacco. The latter 
and smaller industry is irregular in operation, 
and we shall confine the discussion to the 
manufacture of cotton, including, however, 
a few small woolen mills. 

The first difficulty lies in the definition of 
child. The United States Census fixes the 
line between adults and children at 16, and 
its tables are made upon this basis. For 
a time the North Carolina Bureau of Labor 
Statistics fixed the line at 14, but since 
the agitation for the present act prohibiting 



THE CHILD IN THE MILL 223 

the employment of those under 12 began, 
only those below that age have been so 
counted. 

In 1900 the Census reported 7129 children 
below 16 engaged in cotton manufacturing 
out of a total of 30,273 operatives, or a little 
more than 23|- per cent. The State Bureau 
of Labor Statistics for the same year found 
in the entire textile industry 7598 children 
below 14, of a total of 38,637 operatives, 
or about 19f per cent, of the total. The next 
year 7996 below 14 were found in a total 
force of 45,044, or about 17f per cent. 

In 1901 the manufacturers, to prevent the 
passage of a labor law, formally agreed to 
employ no children under twelve (unless the 
support of a widowed mother or a physically 
disabled father), and the statistics for 1902 
were gathered upon that basis. 

In that year, 178 mills representing 1,209,819 
spindles reported 929 children under 12, 
an average of a little more than 5 to the 
mill. Ninety-eight mills with 533,612 spindles 



224 FROM COTTON FIELD TO COTTON MILL 

failed to report this item. If the same pro- 
portion existed in these mills, the total in 
all the mills of the state would be 1339. It 
is natural to suppose, however, that the omis- 
sion was intentional and the obvious reason 
would appear to be the disinclination to give 
evidence against themselves. Miss Sewall 
found in 1903 that the number of children 
under 12 in a limited number of selected estab- 
lishments was about 18 percent, of those under 
16, which proportion would make the number 
for the whole state about 2000.* 

The figures of the mills reporting to the 
state bureau are, moreover, not above sus- 
picion. No vital statistics are kept by the 
state nor by the municipalities. Where the 
managers honestly attempted to prevent 
the employment of very young children, the 
word of the parent was necessarily the chief 
reliance for information. Always in in- 
dustrial history such statements have been 
influenced by greed or apparent necessity. 

' U. S. Bureau of Labor Bulletin, No. 52 (May, 1904). 



THE CHILD IN THE MILL 225 

The figures given in the earlier reports, i.e. 
the number of those under 14, are per- 
haps approximately correct, as in them there 
was no reason for misstatement. The com- 
parison of figures from all available sources 
apparently shows that about 25 per cent, 
of the total number employed are under 
16 years of age. This proportion, while 
large, is much smaller than has been indicated 
by irresponsible writers. 

Observation regardless of statistics shows 
the extensive employment of children. A 
visit to certain departments of a mill shows 
few adults; or one may see the children 
entering or leaving the mills as work begins 
or ends. In fact, their numbers often seem 
proportionally greater than they actually are 
from the concentration of their employment 
in a few departments.^ 

Further, many of these children began work 
at a very early age. Of 98 children observed 
by Miss Sewall, 79 began work before the age 

* See Ch. VII for description of work. 
Q 



226 FROM COTTON FIELD TO COTTON MILL 

of 12, and 37 began before the age of 10. Only 
11 under 12 were found employed at the time 
of the investigation, however. These figures 
are not broad enough for a generalization, and 
some of the establishments visited are among 
the worst in the state. 

As was indicated in a previous chapter, these 
children are employed almost exclusively in 
the spinning rooms. Few in other depart- 
ments are below 16. The work has been 
described. The spinners, chiefly girls, twist 
together the broken threads, and the boys 
replace the full bobbins with empty ones. 

From the standpoint of muscular exertion, 
the work is not difficult. Little physical 
strength is required, and the work is not con- 
tinuous. The position while working is con- 
strained, however, and backs grow tired from 
stooping before the long day draws to a close. 
When not employed the spinners may sit, and 
the doffers lounge about the mill, or even play 
in the yard. The air is fresh, though sometimes 
filled with tiny particles of lint, depending 



THE CHILD IN THE MILL 227 

somewhat upon the product and the quality 
of the cotton. 

The chief demand is constant watchfuhiess. 
Every thread must be mended as soon as it is 
broken, and a spinner has from 200 to 800 
spindles to watch. No great demand is made 
upon the mental faculties, and the work is mo- 
notonous. The noise of the machinery also 
must have its effect upon the nerves and indi- 
rectly upon bodily well-being. 

Speaking broadly, the physical effect of the 
work is undoubtedly bad, though not all are 
affected unfavorably. Many of the children 
employed are sturdy and strong and one may 
find many men and women of good physique 
who have worked in the mills from childhood. 
Apparently neither the confinement nor the 
noise and tension have affected them un- 
favorably. Their lungs have not been affected 
by the hnt, and they have vitality enough to 
overcome the disadvantages of their employ- 
ment. The pitiful stories told by "two ladies" 
who became ''factory girls" for a few weeks 



228 FROM COTTON FIELD TO COTTON MILL 

have little real foundation. They sought sen- 
sation rather than truth, and found it/ 

Compared with some other forms of child 
labor, the conditions in the cotton mill are 
not unreservedly bad. The work is probably 
less exhausting than that of a cash boy or girl 
in a busy department store, where the air is 
almost invariably worse than in a mill. The 
newsboys in the street suffer more physically 
and morally.^ The children employed in glass 
factories and coal mines have work that is 
more injurious in every respect. 

But nevertheless the confinement for the 
long hours, combined with improperly chosen 
and badly prepared food, is enough to stunt the 
growth and lessen the vitahty of a great num- 
ber. This is particularly true of night workers. 
Refreshing sleep during the daylight is difficult 
amid the noises of the factory village, and some- 
times the children who finish their tasks at six in 

» Van Vorst, "The Woman Who Toils" (1903). 
* "The Street : Its Child Workers," University Settlement 
Society, New York. 



THE CHILD IN THE MILL 229 

the morning are up again when the day workers 
return for their dinners at twelve. It is not 
surprising that children sometimes fall asleep 
over their tasks, and that the work is poorly- 
done. Yet a majority of the children, perhaps, 
prefer the night shift on account of the few 
hours gained for play in the afternoon. 

The disadvantages of night work are recog- 
nized as many and serious, and the amount is 
decreasing. One manufacturer writes, ''Nei- 
ther evil (child labor nor ilhteracy), nor both 
together, is half so great as night work for 
women and children." Another says, ''Night 
work hurts worse morally than it does physic- 
ally, and every sane man knows what a strain 
on the system night work is." Unfortunately 
the departments commonly operated at night 
are those in which children are extensively 
employed. 

The mental effects are both positive and 
negative. Probably the monotonous routine 
introduced so early into their lives has a tend- 
ency to hinder mental development, though 



230 FROM COTTON FIELD TO COTTON MILL 

teachers differ upon this point. Some declare 
that children who have worked in the mill 
are more eager to utihze their opportunities 
and accomplish more than other children. 
Others find them difficult to teach. Probably 
the difference depends somewhat upon the 
length of time spent in the mill before entering 
school. Certainly the power of initiative is 
lessened. 

The greater injury is the deprivation of 
educational opportunities. A child who goes 
into the mill is too often a fixture. If illiterate 
when he enters, too often he remains ilhterate. 
If he has only the rudiments of an education, 
the long hours give him little opportunity to 
extend his knowledge, and instances where 
a child has forgotten how to read are not 
unknown. 

In the country the children might attend the 
short sessions of the pubhc schools which were 
taught when farm work was slack. The mills 
run continuously, school attendance means 
the loss of wages, and some ignorant parents 



THE CHILD IN THE MILL 231 

see no compensating advantage. Of the 98 
children reported by Miss Sewall, 12 had not 
attended school before entering the mill, 64 had 
not attended afterward, and 8 had not attended 
at all. A thriving manufacturing town which 
has excellent school buildings and schools re- 
ported an enrollment in the public schools of 
35 per cent, of the population between 6 and 
21. The enrollment for the county, excluding 
the town, was 67 per cent. However, this 
comparison is not absolutely fair to the town, 
as it contains several private schools for both 
white and colored, the enrollment of which 
was not counted. The percentage in board- 
ing schools was also larger in the town than 
in the country. But the addition of these 
students would still leave the proportionate 
attendance in the town lower than in the rural 
districts. 

The moral effects of the work depend some- 
what upon the mill. Generally the manager 
strives to keep out evil influences. Profane 
and immoral overseers are seldom tolerated, 



232 FROM COTTON FIELD TO COTTON MILL 

and immorality among the operatives is not 
countenanced. One observer says: ''The 
moral atmosphere of a mill settlement is much 
purer than I have ever seen it in the North. 
People with bad habits or inclined to lead dis- 
orderly lives are not tolerated." ^ Many in- 
stances of this policy have come under my own 
observation. But when all possible has been 
done, the children see and hear many things 
which do harm. On the other hand, the dis- 
cipline of work teaches them lessons of obe- 
dience, carefulness, and self-restraint. 

Nor does the work entirely destroy the spring 
and elasticity of childhood. Many hate the 
work, of course, but the general attitude of 
the children is not one of rebellion. On the 
farms the children worked, and they accept 
their occupation as a matter of course. They 
take pride in being wage earners and treasure 
a word of approval from an overseer or super- 
intendent. Their ambition is to be transferred 
to the looms, where they make larger wages. 

^ Dr. James C. Bayles, in New York Times, June 2, 1901. 



THE CHILD IN THE MILL 233 

Many prefer the mill to the school, and will 
attend only under compulsion. When the 
child has been contributing to the family sup- 
port, and is certain of employment at will, 
such compulsion is with difficulty applied by 
the parents. 

On this subject, perhaps the testimony of 
the late Dr. Charles B. Spahr is again worth 
quoting. Speaking of children at work he 
said, ''They went about their work with so 
much spring and seemed to have so much spirit 
in it all and after it all, that I was completely 
nonplussed." ^ Experiences of my own with 
mischievous doffers confirm the statement. 

How do parents justify sending their chil- 
dren to such employment ? As mentioned in a 
previous chapter, the migrants from the farm 
are made up of five classes: (1) the honest 
man seeking to better the condition of the 
family; (2) the incapable or shiftless; (3) the 
disabled; (4) the lazy; (5) the widow. Each 
class must be treated separately. 

» "America's Working People" (1900). 



234 FROM COTTON FIELD TO COTTON MILL 

A man of the first class reasons that the re- 
wards of the family labor on the farm are low 
at best, and always exceedingly variable, since 
floods, droughts, or other causes may destroy 
all hope of profits. At the mill, work is per- 
manent and definite wages are paid in cash. 
Instances of $20 to $30 dollars a week earned 
by a single family seem unhmited wealth, 
since he seldom considers the value of pro- 
visions consumed upon the farm when compar- 
ing his lot with that of the factory family. 

His children work with him on the farm, 
hoeing or plowing during the long, hot summer 
days ; they pick cotton or haul wood when the 
frost bites the fingers. He thinks that it will 
be easier for them to work indoors. Then, too, 
the pubhc school in the country is open barely 
four months in the year, and it is often two or 
three miles from his home. In the factory 
towns the schools are good and the term ranges 
from six to nine months, since the school fund 
is almost invariably supplemented by the cor- 
poration when necessary to produce this result. 



THE CHILD IN THE MILL 235 

He does not intend to exploit his children. 
He intends to work himself and, when the fam- 
ily goes to the mill, seeks employment. After 
forty years or more spent upon the farm, how- 
ever, his roughened fingers can seldom be 
trained to do work requiring dexterity, and the 
number of common laborers required is limited. 
Perhaps he secures employment as teamster 
or truckman for the mill, or a position else- 
where in the town is found. In many cases 
the cotton mill is the only industrial enterprise 
in the vicinity, and there are few openings 
which afford steady employment. Meanwhile 
his older children are earning more than he can 
command. 

Other men around him are not working, and 
too often the unemployed periods grow longer. 
Famiharity with the idea of being supported by 
his children blunts his sensibiHties. He salves 
his conscience, perhaps, by cultivating a gar- 
den, chopping the wood, and doing the chores. 
Sometimes he secures the agency for some 
patented article, but he seldom possesses the 



236 FROM COTTON FIELD TO COTTON MILL 

qualities necessary for a successful agent, and 
this occupation often serves only as his excuse 
for his lack of steady employment; or else he 
discovers some ailment to excuse his idleness. 
The result, of course, is moral deterioration. 

Meanwhile he finds that though the family 
income has increased, expenses have increased 
also, compared with the farm. Numerous new 
wants have become a part of the standard 
of life. Sickness with its attendant expenses 
may come to a child, causing loss of wages as 
well. Perhaps the older children marry and 
their wages are no longer a part of the family 
income. The education of the others may be 
postponed from year to year, until sometimes 
they feel ashamed to enter the primary grades 
and refuse to attend if the long-delayed oppor- 
tunity finally comes. 

The history of the man of the second class, 
the incapable or shiftless, is similar, except 
that he more rarely finds permanent employ- 
ment, and sooner becomes content to be a drone. 
He may be a man of the best intentions, obeying 



THE CHILD IN THE MILL 237 

the moral law as he understands it, and faith- 
ful in religious observances, but his will power 
is not sufficient to enable him to resist the in- 
fluence of his surroundings. * 

If a strong man has difficulty in securing em- 
ployment, much harder is the lot of those par- 
tially disabled by old age, exposure, or disease. 
The managers often make places for them as 
sweepers or messengers, of course at low wages. 
Oftener they busy themselves with trifles out- 
side and gradually cease to do even that work 
for which they are fit. 

The fourth class, the lazy, deliberately 
Hving fives of ease from the labor of their 
children, is small at first but constantly re- 
ceives accessions from the divisions already 
named. These men loaf about the stores or 
the blacksmith shops, discussing politics and 
gossiping. Some do not work at all, even pay- 
ing for blacking their shoes from their children's 
wages. Some have a pretended ailment as an 
excuse; others frankly say that they worked 
to bring up their children during their early 



238 FROM COTTON FIELD TO COTTON MILL 

years, and now they expect the children to 
support them. 

Though some of these men are, m a way, 
kind fathers, necessarily their interest in their 
children becomes mercenary. They speak of 
their children as property. ^'She was the best 
spinner I had," is an expression not unknown. 
In sickness their chief concern seems the loss 
of wages. Such fathers oppose labor legis- 
lation, and oppose also the marriage of their 
more skilled daughters. Runaway marriages 
often result, as the country girls coming to the 
mill after the age of sixteen usually do marry. 

The mill managers may declare that they 
will not have such men about the mill, and may 
compel them to undertake some work. Often 
the unwilling workers make themselves so in- 
efficient that they are necessarily discharged. 
Good operatives are not too plentiful, and if 
the family is sent away, the vacant places may 
be filled with some difficulty. 

The legislature of 1905 passed a vagrant 
act aimed at these able-bodied vampire fathers 



THE CHILD IN THE MILL 239 

living upon the earnings of minor children, but 
provided no adequate means for its enforce- 
ment. The problem is one of the transition 
period. The phenomenal growth of the indus- 
try cannot continue. Fewer whole families 
will be brought from the farms, as a mill popu- 
lation develops. The boy trained in the mill 
accepts the mill work as a matter of course 
when he becomes a man, and will be able to 
earn much more than his farmer father suddenly 
taken out of his environment. 

The following quotation from an English 
source is applicable here: "Kind-hearted peo- 
ple, too, may follow a course of conduct 
with their own offspring which appears mon- 
strous to a stranger. In certain districts where 
child labor is a tradition and a custom, the 
very idea of associating it with inhumanity 
does not occur to the people." * 

It is true in North Carolina. Men who would 
resent the charge that they are cruel or un- 
natural parents, press their children into the 

^ "Dangerous Trades," New York and London (1902). 



240 FROM COTTON FIELD TO COTTON MILL 

mills often against the desires of the authori- 
ties. Long before the passage of the act es- 
tabhshing the age limit at twelve, many mills 
had already voluntarily established that rule, 
but the pressure against it was steady. A 
father would declare that the family must 
have the additional income from the labor of 
a child, and threaten to move elsewhere if 
the child were not admitted. 

The fifth class, the widows, exists, though 
undoubtedly the number dependent upon the 
labor of very young children is not so great as 
the opponents of restrictive legislation claim. 
The lot of such a woman is hard. She toils, 
cooking, sewing, scrubbing, during the day and 
sometimes may he awake at night thinking of 
her child at work. There seems no solution, 
except to call upon charity if the children are 
debarred.^ 

The attitude of the employers of child labor 
is not uniform. Some reaHze the social re- 

^ Compare Professor P, H. Giddings, Address before Na- 
tional Educational Association, July, 1905. 



THE CHILD IN THE MILL 241 

sponsibility, endeavor to keep the numbers 
as small as possible, and encourage school 
attendance. Others consider these matters to 
belong primarily to the parents. The educa- 
tional advantages of some employers were 
limited. They worked themselves as children, 
are proud of their mills, and really believe a 
child is better off in a mill than idle upon the 
street. The employers generally claim that the 
labor of young children is wasteful and un- 
economical, and that they are employed only 
because of the demand or necessity of the 
parent, and to keep them out of mischief. 

The following extract from a frank letter 
is the expression of a man who worked his way 
to the position of manager and part-owner of a 
small mill : — 

"... Now as to prohibiting working under four- 
teen years of age, I think such a law would be very- 
unjust and would break up many widowed families. 
My father died, leaving my mother with eight chil- 
dren from four to sixteen years old. We were poor 
people and had it not been that we worked in a cot- 
ton mill my mother would have had to divide her 



242 FROM COTTON FIELD TO COTTON MILL 

children and we would not have had the privilege of 
living with our mother and had a mother's care over 
us. As it was, we, or six of us, worked daily in the 
factory, and although it has been fifty-four years ago 
I am truly thankful there was such a place for us; 
for we made a living, owed nobody anything, and all 
grew up having a mother to watch over us, and al- 
though none of us ever amounted to much, we have 
never been considered bad people. Now to my knowl- 
edge there are many who were left like my mother 
was, and for our state to say to such ' Your children 
shall not work to make a living,' but have them put 
out, one here and another there, I have no language 
to tell you what I think of people who would try to 
control such things. . . . Now as to eleven hours 
a day. I don't think there should be a law to that 
effect. I favor it myself, but I do not know another's 
necessities, and I should not prevent him using his 
own judgment in making a living. Some can afford 
not to work at all, yet others cannot. The same 
commandment which says we must work six days, 
says we must rest the seventh. Now I don't know 
which is the greater sin, to be idle the six days or 
to work the seventh. Then if our law makers tell a 
part of us that we shall only work so much, I think 
they should say to the other parts that they shall 
work so much." 

Another manufacturer, who has aided 



THE CHILD IN THE MILL 243 

churches and schools, estabhshed a Hbrary, 
and done much for the improvement of his 
operatives, wrote thus of the difficulty of ex- 
cluding children, before the enactment of the 
labor law : — 

" We do not want to work children under twelve 
years of age, — resist it all we can, — but when a 
mother brings an eleven-year-old boy to us, and pleads 
that school is over for the year, and she cannot look 
after her boy, that he roams the street contrary to 
her wishes, goes to the river with other boys, and she 
cannot keep up with him, and he wants to work in 
the mill, and she begs us to take him in as he is better 
ofE under control than out of it, what are we to 
do? The mother asked no wages for the boy but 
only wanted him where he could learn to work ; we 
took the boy and he is earning fair wages." 

The employers further claim, that since the 
rate per machine, or per unit of product, is the 
same regardless of the age of the operative, any 
charge of exploitation of children is unjust. 
It is true that the differences in individual 
wages in the same department are simply 
differences of skill, but the fact that the rate 



244 FROM COTTON FIELD TO COTTON MILL 

would probably rise with a curtailment of the 
labor supply is neglected. 

The charge so often made, that the managers 
are tyrants who grind the helpless, cannot be 
sustained. They pay the market rate of wages, 
which is larger than the rate in agriculture, 
and the rate is steadily rising. They show in 
addition much personal interest in individuals 
and do many acts of kindness. Moreover, 
acts of cruelty would be injurious to the mills, 
as the neighboring mills will gladly advance 
transportation for a family of good operatives. 
The employers are not primarily to blame for 
the evils of child labor. Such labor is simply 
a stage in the development of an industrial 
society. The great numbers of families coming 
from the farms are the raw material out of 
which a skilled labor force is to be developed. 
Necessarily there are difficulties in adjustment. 

The phenomenon is always present in an in- 
dustrial transition. Hours were longer and 
conditions harder in England, in the same 
stage of industrial development. In New Eng- 



THE CHILD IN THE MILL 245 

land, also, hours were longer. Mrs. Harriet H. 
Robinson, who went to work at Lowell when 
ten years of age for $2 a week, says: ''The 
working hours of all the girls extended from 
five o'clock in the morning until seven at night, 
with one half hour for breakfast and for dinner. 
Even the doffers were forced to be on duty 
nearly fourteen hours a day. ... I do not 
know why I did not think ... of my work in 
the mill as drudgery. Perhaps it was because 
I expected to do my part towards helping my 
mother to get our living and had never heard 
her complain of the hardships of her Hfe." ^ 

Wonder has been often expressed that pub- 
lic opinion does not force the enactment of 
stringent labor legislation. So far there has 
been httle attempt to organize this force. The 
growth of the industry has come too quickly. 
Regulation of farm work would seem absurd, 
and the realization of the difference between 
the work in the factory and on the farm comes 
slowly. Further, interference with the affairs 

1 Robinson, "Loom and Spindle" (1898). 



246 FROM COTTON FIELD TO COTTON MILL 

of others is not yet popular, and anything 
smacking of class legislation meets with Httle 
favor, on general principles. The following 
expression of a farmer is tj'pical of the attitude 
of mind of a large number, '^I think that the 
less the state tends to supplant the family, the 
better." The agitation by outsiders has done 
more harm than good. The exaggerations have 
discounted the force of the whole argument, 
and have caused resentment of interference as 
well. 

The beginning was made by the legislature 
of 1903, which passed the present act. It pro- 
vides for a maximum week of sixty-six hours, 
and a minimum age of twelve. The parent 
must give a written statement of the ages of his 
children, and a false representation is punish- 
able as a misdemeanor. The employer who 
knowingly employs a child under twelve is also 
Hable to punishment. A stricter bill providing 
for raising the minimum age for girls and 
ilhterate boys to fourteen, and absolutely for- 
bidding night work by children, was defeated 



THE CHILD IN THE MILL 247 

in 1905; but its passage will be urged again 
before the legislature of 1907. 

Though the act of 1903 provided no system 
of inspection it has been generally obeyed, and 
the mill managers as a whole approve. Some, 
however, take the ground that their business 
is no more a proper matter for regulation than 
the farm or the sawmill. The operation of 
the law has sent many children into the schools, 
though not to the extent expected. 

Agitation for compulsory school attendance 
is now in progress in connection with the move- 
ment for the increase of facihties for popular 
education. The great burden of illiteracy is 
leading many men to revise their belief regard- 
ing the proper hmits of state interference with 
individual Hberty. Organizations of women 
are beginning to advocate stricter laws for 
the protection of the children. A state Child 
Labor Committee has been organized (1906), 
and the creation of sentiment for stricter regu- 
lations will be attempted. Further legislation 
may be expected before many years. 



CHAPTER XIII 

THE NEGRO AS A COMPETITOR 

Speaking broadly, in the South the right of 
the negro to earn a hving by any sort of manual 
or mechanical labor has been recognized as a 
matter of course. Certain trades, as that of 
barber, have been almost monopolized by him. 
Contrary to conditions in the North, negro car- 
penters, bricklayers, plasterers, and plumbers 
work beside whites without question. On the 
farms, negroes and whites work together at all 
stages of the crops. Both are engaged in 
clearing forests and preparing wood or lumber 
for market. One wagon may be driven by a 
negro and another by a white. A white cob- 
bler may share a shop with a negro. White 
men work with negroes in the tobacco factories, 
though usually in different processes. 

But while public opinion accepts all this, 

248 



THE NEGRO AS A COMPETITOR 249 

the working of negroes, particularly negro men, 
beside white women within walls would not 
be tolerated. Leaving any color prejudice out 
of consideration, the experience of the South 
with the '^unspeakable crime" has been bitter. 
No association which might permit the possi- 
ble lessening of the negro's deference toward 
white women would be allowed. It is a fixed 
behef, not susceptible to argument, that daily 
contact and association in the same work, 
under the same conditions, might tend to make 
the negro bolder and less respectful. For this 
reason the only negroes employed directly in 
the Southern textile industry are a few outside 
the mill proper, serving as laborers, draymen, 
firemen ; and a smaller number engaged in some 
of the preparatory processes. 

Heretofore the supply of white labor has been 
so abundant and so cheap that the adapta- 
bility of the negro to textile work has been a 
question chiefly of academic interest. A few 
farsighted mill men have realized that this 
supply of native white labor is not inexhaust- 



250 FROM COTTON FIELD TO COTTON MILL 

ible; but to test the capability of the negro 
would be an uncertain experiment which might 
cause the loss of time and capital, and even if 
successful seemed hardly worth the trouble 
and risk for the present. Some friends of the 
negro have hoped for the trial under favorable 
circumstances, as a means of discipline and 
development, but this interest has not been 
widespread. The general opinion expressed 
when the subject has been mentioned has been 
one of disbehef in its practicabihty, in spite of 
certain facts more or less well known. 

While the industry was in the domestic stage, 
negro women on the large plantations spun yam 
and wove cloth for plantation uses. Some of 
this work was well done, but no estimate of 
the number employed, nor of the value of the 
product, can now be made. Before the Civil 
War slave labor was employed in a few small 
cotton mills. The Rocky Mount Mill in Edge- 
combe County, North CaroHna, employed ne- 
groes from 1820 to 1851. The following is taken 
from a private letter from the manager : — 



THE NEGRO AS A COMPETITOR 251 

" I took charge of the Rocky Mount mill in Nov. 
1849. We worked at that time only negroes — 
nearly all of them slaves. There were 2 or 3 old issue 
free negroes. I introduced white labor in 1851. The 
whites seemed to think it humiliating to work in a 
cotton mill and I had much difficulty in getting them 
to go in. The mill was still making coarse yarns, 4's 
to 12's, put up in five pound bundles for the country 
trade — this was woven by country women on hand 
looms. When I could not sell the full product to the 
country merchants, the surplus was put in coarse filling 
for the Philadelphia market. I found the negroes to 
do pretty well on these coarse products, but the owners 
of the slaves began to object to their working in the 
mill and I substituted whites as soon as I could, and 
kept the mill going imtil destroyed by Federals m 
July, 1863." 

Recently a few attempts to conduct mills 
entirely with negro labor have been made. 
The attempt at Charleston, South Carolina, 
was not successful, but the mill had previously 
failed with white labor. The old machinery 
was replaced by new and the mill was expected 
to pay dividends on this increased capitaliza- 
tion. The manager, Major J. H. Montgomery, 
was reported as attributing the failure prin- 



252 FROM COTTON FIELD TO COTTON MILL 

cipally to the location. In Charleston the bare 
necessities of subsistence are easily procured. 
Fish, oysterS; vegetables, are cheap, the cli- 
mate is mild, and httle fuel and clothing give 
comfort. The usual attractions of the city 
were serious obstacles. Anything in the way 
of a pageant is exceedingly attractive to the 
negro, and it was difficult for these reasons to 
secure regular attendance. The manager ex- 
pressed the belief that the experiment would 
have succeeded if it had been located in the 
country, away from the distractions of the 
town, where the operatives might have been 
better controlled, . through Hving in factory 
tenements. 

The Ashley and Bailey Company, silk manu- 
facturers of Paterson, New Jersey, have estab- 
lished small silk mills at Fayetteville, North 
Carolina. The manager is a negro preacher, 
who has carefully selected his help by indi- 
viduals and not by famihes. Before a youth is 
employed his parents must give the manager 
written permission to inflict corporal punish- 



THE NEGRO AS A COMPETITOR 253 

ment if it is deemed necessary. Occasionally 
this permission is utilized, but the possession 
of the power has generally prevented the neces- 
sity of its exercise. The results of operation 
are said to be satisfactory, though the experi- 
ment has not yet gone far enough for a verdict, 
and the management refuses to give any infor- 
mation whatever upon the subject. 

Another interesting experiment took place 
at Concord, North Carolina, a center of the 
Southern cotton mill industry. This was a 
cotton mill, not only operated, but owned and 
managed, by negroes. The moving spirit was 
a mulatto, Warren Coleman,, who had an un- 
usual career. He was born a slave and his 
reputed father was a white man, afterward dis- 
tinguished by military and financial ability, 
who is said to have assisted the boy. Just 
after the Civil War, Coleman opened a little 
store, and succeeded through trading ability, 
industry, and econom^y. With his profits he 
began to buy cheap land on the outskirts of 
the town and erect cabins for negro tenants. 



254 FROM COTTON FIELD TO COTTON MILL 

A house and lot costing from $125 to $300 
could be rented for 50 cents to $1.25 a week. 
He built other houses with his rents, and at one 
time owned nearly 100. Valuable business sites 
were acquired, but these were not improved, 
as he hesitated to invest a large amount in a 
single venture. In 1900 his property was 
supposed to exceed $50,000. 

Coleman conceived the idea that a cotton 
mill could be managed and operated by negroes, 
and began to agitate the matter. His motive 
was complex. The other mills in the town 
were almost phenomenally successful; his own 
past success as a financier had made him ambi- 
tious to be recognized as a factor in a broader 
field. Further, his race consciousness was strong 
and he desired to be considered the negro Moses, 
and to receive the applause gained by opening 
a new field of activity to his people. 

The project was received with enthusiasm 
and every influence in the race was enlisted. 
Ministers recommended the enterprise from 
their pulpits; mass meetings making a strong 



THE NEGRO AS A COMPETITOR 255 

appeal to race consciousness were held over the 
whole South, while the negro newspapers urged 
subscriptions as a duty to the race. The follow- 
ing extracts from negro papers will show the 
tone of race comment: — 

"We know him personally, honest, enterprising, 
filled to overflowing with devotion to every move- 
ment wherein the negro's interest is fostered and pro- 
moted. He knows no failure. We know many other 
enterprises already fixed by Hon. W. C. Coleman, 
that are living monuments of glory to race as well as 
paying institutions. " 

— Search Light (Austin, Tex.), July 11, 1896. 

"The greatness of the man appears particularly in 
the way he makes obstacles and difficulties, help 
and not hindrances. W. C. Coleman will rank with 
Abraham Lincoln as their practical friend and bene- 
factor. One gave them freedom, the other will give 
them an industrial position." 

— Southern Age (Atlanta, Ga.), Feb. 6, 1897. 

"Let all colored men who have money to invest and 
race pride about them take stock in the mill." 

— Piedmont Indicator (Spartanburg, S. C), 
Dec. 12, 1896. 



256 FROM COTTON FIELD TO COTTON MILL 

About $50,000 was subscribed, and the com- 
pany was organized in 1897, with Coleman as 
Secretary and Treasurer. However, whether 
from jealousy or distrust few subscriptions 
were made by negroes living in Concord or the 
immediate vicinity/ Encouraged by the ready 
response, the capital stock was increased to 
$100,000, and subscriptions were sought from 
whites also. Those who responded were mill 
men, who were willing to risk a few dollars on 
the trial of the experiment, and a few philan- 
thropists. A desirable tract of land was secured 
on the edge of the town, remote from the other 
mills, and building was begun. 

When the collection of the subscriptions of 
the negroes began, difficulty ensued. It was 
found that laborers, washerwomen, etc., car- 
ried away by the enthusiasm of the moment, 
had subscribed amounts, the . installments on 
which were as great as their total wages. Negro 
laborers and artisans had taken stock to be 

'Testimony of J. P. Blackwell, bookkeeper, before the 
Industrial Commission, Vol. VIII. 



THE NEGRO AS A COMPETITOR 257 

paid in work on the buildings, but after a week 
or two, a certificate of stock in the future 
seemed less desirable than present cash pay- 
ments, and the number of workers grew smaller. 
Much of this forfeited stock fell into Coleman's 
hands. 

The work of construction dragged along and 
the building was not completed until 1901. 
Installments had been paid regularly on only a 
small part of the stock, and Coleman's holdings 
reached $12,000. Finally the building was 
finished, a few tenement houses were con- 
structed, the railroad built a side track, and 
a mortgage was given for the equipment. 
Unfortunately Coleman, who had entire charge, 
seduced by apparent cheapness, put in second- 
hand English machinery, and the mill was handi- 
capped from the beginning. A white super- 
intendent from Easthampton, Massachusetts, 
was engaged, and operation was begun. 

The time was unpropitious. The yam mar- 
ket had not recovered from a period of demor- 
ahzation, when many established mills with 



258 FROM COTTON FIELD TO COTTON MILL 

white operatives had run with a greatly re- 
duced profit or with no profit at all. Operatives 
were to be made of individuals entirely un- 
skilled and unused to any sort of regular me- 
chanical work. The negro population of the 
town and surrounding country, however, was 
comparatively intelhgent. The pubhc schools 
were fairly efficient, and two schools maintained 
by Northern philanthropy had existed for 
years. Further, the negroes had been brought 
into close relations with the whites and had 
gained much from this contact. 

The mill, nevertheless, did not pay, though 
the profit in yams grew larger, and, in fact, did 
not run with any degree of regularity. A visit 
in 1902 found it shut down, — temporarily, 
the manager said, — but in reafity little work 
had been done for weeks. The superintendent 
was absent; but his wife, who had practical 
knowledge of the business, assured me that the 
work was going on well, and that very skillful 
operatives were being produced. The opera- 
tives were regular and learned very rapidly, 



THE NEGRO AS A COMPETITOR 259 

more rapidly than she had known whites to 
do in Massachusetts. She spoke approvingly 
of the conduct of the boys and girls, and de- 
clared that the negro overseers had been a 
success. 

Through all her story, however, there seemed 
to run a note of insincerity. Her statements, 
both in sentiment and phrases, were too much 
hke those of the manager who had urged me to 
visit the mill and mention it in the New York 
papers, saying frankly that he hoped a notice 
would bring him subscriptions to stock. The 
success of the mill had become a mania with him, 
and no opportunity to solicit subscriptions was 
lost. But he no longer spoke of it entirely as 
a business proposition, but asked aid on semi- 
philanthropic grounds. The same tendency 
had been observed earher by the late Dr. 
Charles B. Spahr, who interviewed him in 
1899.' 

Coleman continued to furnish money for 
running expenses, sacrificing his real estate for 

* "America's Working People," p, 48. 



260 FROM COTTON FIELD TO COTTON MILL 

the purpose, until his resources were exhausted. 
In the fall of 1903 the management was turned 
over to a white merchant and cotton buyer of 
the town. This gentleman introduced several 
economies, engaged white overseers, and made 
the mill pay expenses until the high price of 
cotton in the spring of 1904 made further 
continuance impossible. Meanwhile Coleman 
died in April, 1904, and in June the mill was 
sold under the mortgage. 

An examination of Coleman's affairs has 
shown that the mill owed him at least $12,000 
which he had furnished at various times, 
though his books were in such confusion that 
the exact indebtedness could not be ascer- 
tained. Mr. White, who had charge of the mill 
during the last few months it was running, 
attributes the failure to the machinery, to in- 
efficient management, and to a lack of working 
capital. Full production could not be secured 
from the worn machinery; but, by running 
slowly, the quahty of the yarn produced was 
entirely satisfactory to the buyers, and regret 



THE NEGRO AS A COMPETITOR 261 

was expressed at the discontinuance of opera- 
tion. 

Coleman had gained his property by economy 
and by investing his surplus in additional in- 
dependent units of the same kind. With the 
rents from his houses, he built other houses. 
Close collections made him successful. In his 
store he kept only the staple groceries for which 
there was a steady demand. When greater 
problems were presented, he was not able to 
meet them. When profit or loss hinged upon 
the purchase of cotton on a certain day or a 
month afterward, or when accepting or reject- 
ing a contract meant success or failure, his 
judgment was often at fault. 

Further, his attitude toward his employees 
caused friction. The negro overseers were a 
failure. They were inclined to magnify their 
offices and to show favoritism. In the exercise 
of their power, they were sometimes over- 
lenient, but oftener overstrict, and docked 
the operatives on every opportunity. In this 
they were sustained and encouraged by Cole- 



262 FROM COTTON FIELD TO COTTON MILL 

man, who seemed to consider every dime thus 
saved a real economy. Their overbearing 
disposition caused trouble, as it is proverbial 
that negroes will resent orders from one of their 
own color, which would be obeyed without 
question if they came from a white. The 
money needed for the operation of the mill 
was furnished in small sums when larger amounts 
would have been more economical. Neither 
cotton nor fuel had been supplied regularly. 
Often the mill was idle for hours waiting for a 
supply of cotton or coal. For lack of other fuel, 
the bagging from the cotton bales had been 
burnt, instead of being sold to the local 
ginners to be used again. Wages were paid 
irregularly, and the operatives were constantly 
changing. 

Mr. White's verdict in regard to the labor is, 
on the whole, favorable. While a large number 
tested proved worthless, other women and 
girls were able to do efficient work, with the 
slow machinery, and developed also the quahty 
of faithfulness and regularity. A few would 



THE NEGRO AS A COMPETITOR 263 

be considered good average operatives in any 
Southern mill. In comparing general efficiency 
the wages paid must, however, be considered. 
While the white spinners in the town received 
10 cents to 12 J cents the '^side," it was easy to 
secure negroes at 5 or 6 cents. At this rate the 
best spinners made about $2.50 a week. The 
product per spindle was smaller, of course, than 
in the mills operated by white labor. The 
men employed were not so satisfactory as the 
women. Mr. White believes that with favoring 
circumstances a mill can be operated success- 
fully with white overseers and negro operatives. 
However, he says that he would not attempt 
the experiment farther South where the negroes 
are perhaps less inteUigent, nor in the vicinity 
of a city.^ 

It is clear, then, though both the Charleston 
and the Concord mills failed, that no verdict 
has been pronounced against negro operatives 
so long as low wages will draw them to the mills. 
There seems to be httle about a mill which the 

^ Interview, 1904. 



264 FROM COTTON FIELD TO COTTON MILL 

negro should not be able to learn. The pro- 
cesses are largely mechanical, and the difference 
between a good operative and a poor one is 
chiefly a question of care and dexterity. The 
negro is not by nature a machinist, but indi- 
viduals can deal with machinery. The memory 
of a negro locomotive fireman who did the 
switching in the freight yards of a town where 
my boyhood was spent is vivid yet. Negro 
firemen and engineers of stationary plants 
are not uncommon. Of course many cannot 
comprehend even the elements of mechanics, 
but speaking broadly the difficulty with negro 
operatives is not an intellectual one. 

The chief failings of all negro labor are tem- 
peramental and moral. The negroes as a class 
do not work except under direct compulsion. 
They do not like monotonous labor. They do 
not Hke to be alone nor to engage in any em- 
ployment where they cannot communicate with 
their fellows. In the small Southern tobacco 
factories, the negroes talk and sing at their 
work as there is little machinery and no tension. 



THE NEGRO AS A COMPETITOR 265 

Whether enough negroes are to be found in a 
community who will keep up the monotonous 
routine of a cotton mill week after week, is the 
question to be solved. The negro was not long 
enough in slavery to make the willingness to 
work instinctive. He has not been long enough 
out of slavery to develop those ambitions which 
hold one to distasteful employment for the sake 
of ultimate satisfaction. Few have developed a 
pride in doing the given work as well as possible. 
The negro dislikes to work regularly. The 
employers of domestic servants are necessarily 
liberal with '^afternoons and evenings out." 
The employers of negro mechanics must allow 
numerous absences. Frequently a Northern 
born employer of negroes in the South, who 
attempts to enforce the same rules that he 
would where conditions of life are harder, fails 
entirely, when a Southerner who will endure 
more, succeeds, partially at least, in getting 
work done. To go to the yearly or semi-yearly 
circus, or to the campmeeting, sometimes last- 
ing for a week or more, to attend a funeral 



266 FROM COTTON FIELD TO COTTON MILL 

arrayed in the gorgeous uniform of his lodge, 
are some of the negro's passions. 

Perhaps the elevation of the negro's ideals 
of citizenship and of his standards of Hfe will 
enable him successfully to enter the employ- 
ments which the growing scarcity of white 
labor must soon open to him. Some negroes 
order their Uves in accordance with the universal 
standards of good citizenship; but there is 
little pressure of public opinion among them on 
any question not directly connected with par- 
tisan politics, and their children too often 
revert to irresponsibility. The loafer stands 
as high as the laborer. Among the thoughtless 
his position is often higher, for he wears the 
cast-off clothing of the white man, and appears 
better than the laborer in overalls. 

Procuring the means of a simple existence 
is too easy to make necessary the full employ- 
ment of strength and time. Domestic servants 
seldom live on the premises, and demand the 
right to leave when the evening meal is over. 
Generally they consider all broken or left-over 



THE NEGRO AS A COMPETITOR 267 

victuals their perquisite. A white family with 
a negro cook often supports from one to five 
colored persons, besides feeding any friend who 
comes to the kitchen on an errand or to visit. 
This fact helps to explain the number of loafers 
seen upon the streets of any Southern town. 
They are supported by the pilferings of a 
mother or sister, wife or sweetheart, and a few 
cents gained by holding a horse, carrying a note 
or a package, furnish tobacco and whisky. 
The white men for whom they do some httle 
services turn over their discarded clothing, and 
too many desire httle more. 

Economic conditions are changing, however. 
In some sections white servants threaten to 
displace the negro. With the steadily rising 
price of food closer watch is kept on the pantry. 
The relations between the races are becoming 
more and more a matter of business, and the 
negro must work or become an habitual crimi- 
nal. In view of the growing demand for 
labor, a stricter enforcement of the vagrancy 
laws does not seem unreasonable. 



268 FROM COTTON FIELD TO COTTON MILL 

As was said above, the right of the negro 
to work has been unquestioned. During the 
operation of the Coleman mill there was not 
the sUghtest friction, and no prejudice was 
exhibited in the town toward the white over- 
seers. Such a condition may not continue. 
If the negro holds his place in other industries, 
and enters the textile industry before a white 
operative class develops and becomes conscious 
of itseK, extension of that employment is likely 
to cause a httle jar. If he loses his industrial 
position, and, sometime in the future, after the 
mill operatives have become organized, at- 
tempts to enter, an intense race conflict may 
ensue. With the organization of the mill 
operatives, the relations between them and the 
operators will suffer a change. A conflict hke 
that at Pana, Illinois, may follow the attempt 
to substitute colored for white labor, on account 
of a future strike or lockout. 



CHAPTER XIV 

CONCLUSIONS 

We have now traced the development of a 
state from a collection of primitive frontier 
communities into one in which primitive con- 
ditions and somewhat advanced industrialism 
are strangely mingled. We have seen in the 
same neighborhood the oldest methods in agri- 
culture and the most elaborate and costly 
machinery in manufacturing; the unskilled 
laborer and the expert operative. 

A century ago the frugal population was 
almost self-sufficient, producing practically all 
that it consumed. The gradual decay of 
home manufacturing, and the increasing de- 
pendence upon other sections and other coun- 
ties, have been shown. Then with the destruc- 
tion and demoralization of the old system, we 
have seen a belated struggle for industrial 
position. 

269 



270 FROM COTTON FIELD TO COTTON MILL 

The simple country people who have always 
lived close to the soil have been drawn into the 
mills and factories, there to adjust themselves 
to a new environment. This process of ad- 
justment naturally is not always easy. Neces- 
sarily it is often gained only after a consider- 
able period, and then with pain and difficulty. 

Such a period of friction is not peculiar to 
the section. All industrial transitions exhibit 
it to a greater or less extent. Perhaps because 
of the personal element in the relations with 
the employers it is less pronounced than usual. 
The tie between employer and employed is not 
at first a class relation, and the growth of the 
class idea has been slow. 

The general conclusions which follow from 
the facts set forth in the text may be classified 
into those relating (1) to the industry itself; 
(2) to the employer; (3) to the operatives 
and their dependents; (4) to the state as a 
whole. 

Though the discussion has not been concerned 
with the purely economic side of production, 



CONCLUSIONS 271 

the position of the industry may be thus sum- 
marized : — 

Mill buildings and tenements may be con- 
structed much more cheaply than in New Eng- 
land. The cost of fuel is decidedly less. 
Those mills which procure their cotton from 
their immediate neighborhood save in freight 
charges ; but the mills which must send to the 
Gulf states for their raw material are at a posi- 
tive disadvantage. The freight on the cotton 
is often greater than the New England mill 
pays, and the freight on the product to the 
point of distribution is additional expense. 

The labor cost has been less, due partly to 
lower money wages, partly to longer hours, 
and finally to the absence of strikes and other 
forms of industrial friction. At the same time 
the necessity of employing inefficient labor, or 
what amounts to the same thing, — a dispro- 
portionate amount of labor which has not at- 
tained average skill, — has increased the cost of 
production above the point which the lower 
rate of wages would indicate. That is, full 



272 FROM COTTON FIELD TO COTTON MILL 

production has not been secured from the 
machinery. Further, the rate of wages is 
rising and hours are being shortened. 

Heretofore the mills have been engaged 
almost entirely upon coarse goods, but the 
tendency toward the finer grades is definitely 
marked. That the South, and North Carolina 
particularly, should gain the first place in the 
industry does not seem absurd. However, 
the industry is so strongly intrenched in New 
England, and the possibihties of foreign trade 
so immense, that the industry may continue 
to expand in both sections. If one section 
must lose, the South will survive, provided that 
skill in management is equal. 

The manufacturers are not yet economic 
entrepreneurs. In most cases they were not 
trained in cotton mills, but entered the business 
after succeeding in something else. Some are 
shrewd and farsighted, few are harsh and 
despotic. Their success has been due more 
largely to general business experience, and to 
tact in the management of their employees. 



CONCLUSIONS 273 

than to wide knowledge of the cotton business. 
At times it has been almost impossible to avoid 
making profits. Increasing competition will 
necessarily ehminate some of those now en- 
gaged in mill management. 

With some detail and repetition that part 
of the rural population from which operatives 
come has been described. Their motives for 
coming have been analyzed, and their life around 
and in the mills has been discussed at length. 

The attempt has been made to show the 
operatives as a whole and not a few unusual 
or abnormal examples. We have seen them to 
be honest, simple, and uneducated, but capable 
of development and training. Emphasis is 
laid upon the fact that they are neither de- 
graded nor degenerate. In view of current 
misrepresentations, this fact cannot be stated 
too forcibly. 

In regard to wages, the inevitable conclusion 
must be that, taking everything into considera- 
tion, the operatives are not wretchedly paid. 
While the wages are less than in New England, 



274 FROM COTTON FIELD TO COTTON MILL 

the demands made upon the wages are also less. 
With the increased reward of agricultural labor 
during the past five years, wages in the mills 
have risen decidedly. The pay is greater than 
in other local occupations open to those of no 
more training and skill. In fact the difference 
in favor of the factory is so great that only the 
natural inertia of a rural population combined 
with certain social disadvantages of factory 
labor prevents an oversupply. 

Undoubtedly, a certain disrepute has, in the 
past, attached itself to factory labor in some 
localities. Perhaps the partial surrender of 
independence necessary has been responsible 
for some of this feeling. Then, too, around 
some mills moral conditions have not been 
beyond criticism. 

A serious disadvantage from the standpoint 
of the student of social welfare is the tendency 
toward the destruction of family hfe. This is 
particularly true when the mill runs both night 
and day, and the family is divided. Further, 
where a definite part of the family income is 



CONCLUSIONS 275 

directly attributable to a child, and that part 
is perhaps greater than the contribution of the 
parent, the natural relation of parent and child 
tends to be reversed. 

While no defense of the employment of the 
child has been attempted or intended, the extent 
has been shown to be much less than has gen- 
erally been supposed. Moreover, it would seem 
that some of the more serious phases of the 
problem belong to the transition period, and 
will correct themselves. The number of chil- 
dren employed grows less comparatively as the 
years pass. 

In making comparisons with other sections 
in regard to hours of labor, employment of 
children, etc., it is only just to consider the 
suddenness with which manufacturing has been 
introduced into a society distinctly agricul- 
tural. Instead of comparing present condi- 
tions, it is fairer to compare North Carolina 
to-day with those sections when they were in 
the same stage of industrial development. 

The problem of enriching the lives of these 



276 FROM COTTON FIELD TO COTTON MILL 

people is still unsolved. The church is not hold- 
ing its own, and no other social agency is taking 
its place. There is Uttle around the factory 
village to develop the aesthetic and spiritual 
element. The daily hfe is, to a large extent, 
a round of toil, relieved only by physical pleas- 
ures. The large proportion of iUiteracy, of 
course, increases the difficulty, and without 
compulsory school attendance a decrease will 
be slow. A comprehensive scheme of efficient 
agencies for social betterment remains to be 
developed. 

The unusual relations between employer and 
employed heretofore existing have broken the 
shock between the fife on the farm and at the 
mill. These relations, however, are passing 
away as the employer grows more '' business- 
like," and the operative loses his rural habit 
of mind. A class consciousness is slowly 
developing among the workers, and the results 
will be momentous. 

Whether future difficulties between the em- 
ployer and employed will result in the intro- 



CONCLUSIONS 277 

duction of negro labor into the mills, depends 
upon factors not purely economic. For a mill 
to discharge white operatives and introduce 
negroes would be a dangerous experiment 
from a social standpoint. With the increasing 
scarcity of white labor due to more prosperous 
conditions in other industries, a new mill might 
begin with negro operatives. The operatives 
must, however, be all white or all negro. In 
the present state of the public mind, indis- 
criminate employment is unthinkable. All 
these possibilities depend, however, upon the 
yet unproved capacity of the negro for such 
employment. 

These tremendous problems of the industrial 
change have influenced the state as a whole. 
Yet since they have appeared gradually, some 
may deny any change. The student of social 
phenomena recognizes the decay of old ideals 
and the substitution of new. Political theories 
and prejudices, social customs and standards, 
ethical and religious values, are all affected. 
Nevertheless through all this confusion the 



278 FROM COTTON FIELD TO COTTON MILL 

influence of the old life unexpectedly persists, 
and strange inconsistencies appear. The state 
has not yet found itself; has not yet adjusted 
its agricultural philosophy to industrial condi- 
tions. 



APPENDIX A 

TABLE OF WEEKLY WAGES ACTUALLY PAID IN 
A NORTH CAROLINA TOWN, 1906 



Picker Room 




Spoolers $4.50 to $6.00 


Opener , . . . 
Picker hand . . 


$6.00 
6.00 


Twisters . . . 
Warper .... 


4.80 
7.50 


Card hand . . . 


6.00 


Spinning overseer 


15.00 


Boss carder . . 


12.00 


Section hand . . 


7.50 






Twisting overseer 


7.50 


Spinning Room 

Drawing frame 
hands . . . 6.00 


Band boy . . . 
Sweepers . . . 
Oiler and bander . 


3.00 
4.50 
4.50 


Slubber hands 
Intermediate 


6.00 


Weaving Room 


hands . . . 


6.00 


Filler .... 


4.50 


Speeder hands 


6.00 


Creelers. . . . 


4.50 


Spinners (12^0. to 




Beam warper . . 


6.60 


15c. per side) . 


3.00 


Slasher tender 


7.50 


Doffers .... 


3.00 


Drawing-in girls . 


7.50 


Head Doffer . . 


3.60 


Weavers ($3 to $9) 


5.40 



279 



280 FROM COTTON FIELD TO COTTON MILL 



Finishing Room 

Calendar-i 
Folder 



Baler 



two 
men 



f$6.00 
4.50 



Weave boss . . $15.00 
Section bosses . 9.00 



Engineer . . . 9.00 
Firemen . 6.00 to 7.50 



APPENDIX B 
Prices in Massachusetts and North Carolina 





Massachusetts 


North Cakolina 


Aeticle 












1897 


1903 


1897 


1903 


Flour, Superfine, bbl. 


$6.62J 


$5.20 


$6.00 


$5.00 


Flour, Family, bbl. 


5.80 


4.69 


5.00 


4.50 


Meal, lb. 


.03 


.03 


.014 


.02 


Rice, lb. 


.07? 


.08 


.081 


.084 


Tea, lb. 


.461 


.54 


.50 


.50 


Coffee, Rio, lb. 


.3U 


.22 


.12i 


.15 


Coffee, Roasted, lb. 


.28 


.27 


.15 


15 


Sugar, Coffee, lb. 


.041 


.05J 


.05 


.064 


Sugar, Gran., lb. 


.05J 


.051 


.064 


.07 


Molasses, N. 0., gal. 


.50 


.49i 


.50 


.50 


Molasses, P. R., gal. 


.49J 


.47 


.50 


.40 


Syrup, gal. 


.52? 


.491 


.35 


.50 


Soap, lb. 


.044 


.05J 


.05 


.05 


Starch, lb. 


.07i 


.08 


.074 


.10 


Meats 










Beef, Roast, lb. 


.141 


.m 


.08 


.10 


Beef, Soup, lb. 


.05f 


.07 


.05 


.05 


Beef, Steak, lb. 


.25? 


.28 


.10 


.124 


Veal, ForeQrtr., lb. 


.08 


.101 


.05 


.05 


Veal, Hind Qrtr., lb. 


.125 


.154 


.07 


.07 


Mutton, Fore Qrtr.,lb. 


mi 


.101 


.08 


.084 


Mutton, Leg, lb. 


.Hi 


.164 


.10 


.10 


Mutton, Chops, lb. 


.20 


.214 


.10 


.15 


Pork, Fresh, lb. 


.10 


.14 


.05-.10 


.10 


Pork, Salted, lb. 


.095 


.124 


.074 


.10 


Hams, lb. 


.13i 


.13J 


.12 


.14 


Shoulders, lb. 


.09 


.10 


.11 


.13 


Sausage, lb. 


.lo; 


.12i 


.10 


.10 


Lard, lb. 


.08 


.134 


.084 


.10 


Butter, lb. 


.241 


.304 


.15 


.18 


Cheese, lb. 


.14 


.16 


.174 


.20 



281 



282 FROM COTTON FIELD TO COTTON MILL 

APPENDIX B (Continued) 
Prices in Massachusetts and North Carolina 





Mabsachttsetts I 


North Carolina 


Akticle 












1897 


1902 


1897 


1903 


Vegetables 










Potatoes, White, bu. 


$1.01i 


$1.14J 


$0.70 


50.75 


Potatoes, Sweet, bu. 






.60 


.50 


Milk, qt. 


.051 


.06J 


.05 


.05 


Eggs, doz. 


.23J 


.211 


.12k 


.125 


Board, Men, per 










week 


4.62 


3.91 


1.50 


1.50 


Board, Women, per 










week 


3.66 


3.34 


1.50 


1.50 


Fuel 










Coal, Hard, ton 


6.00 


6.651 


4.50 


4.50 


Wood, Hard, cord 


8.41J 


8.25 


1.60 


1.75 


Wood, Pine, cord 


6.97 


6.79i 


1.50 


1.60 


Dry Goods 










Shirting, 4-4 Brown, 










yd. 


.08i 


.061 


.05i 


.07i 


Shirting, 4-4 










Bleached, yd. 


.08i 


.081 


.06 


.10 


Sheeting, ] 










9-8 Brown, yd. 


.091 


.16 


.09 


.10 


Sheeting, | 










9-8 Bleached, yd. J 










Cotton Flannel, yd. 


.10 


.lOi 


.09 


.10 


Ticking, yd. 


.11 


.131 


.12i 


.12i 


Prints, yd. 


.05i 


.06 


.05 


.06J 


Shoes, Men's 


2.05J 


1.99i 


1.50 


1.50 


Rent 










4-Room Tenements 


8.631 


12.14 


3.00 


4.00 


fi-Room Tenements 


11.61 


19.30 


4.00 


6.00 



APPENDIX C 

Comparison of Prices of Selected Commodities in Similar 
Towns in Connecticut and North Carolina, April, 1904 



Abtiolb 


Conn. 


N. 0. 


Article 


Conn. 


N. 0. 


Flour, bbl. 


$6.25 


j $5.50 
j 6.50 


Hams, lb. 
Shoulders, lb. 


$0.15 
.11 


$0.15 
.11 


Meal, lb. 


.05 


.02 


Sausage, lb. 


.14 


.12i 


Rice, lb. 


.07i 


.08i 


Lard, lb. 


.lOi 


.10 


Tea, lb. 


.50 


.50 








Coffee, lb. 


.30 


.15 


Fuel 






Sugar, Coffee, lb. 


.05 


.061 


Coal, Soft, ton 


5.60 


3.76 




181b. 


16 lb. 


Wood, Hard, cord 


10.00 


2.00 


Sugar, Gran., lb. 


for 

$1.00 


for 

$1.00 


Wood, Soft, cord 


7.00 


1.75 


MolasseSjN. 0., gal. 


.55 


.50 


Dry Goods 






Molasses, P. R., gal. 


.43 


.40 


Shirting, 






Syrup, gal. 


.55 


.50 


Unbleached, yd. 


.12i 


.10 


Butter, lb. 


.22 


.15 


Shirting, 






Cheese, lb. 


.15i 


.20 


Bleached, yd. 


.15 


.12 


Milk, qt. 


.06 


.05 


Sheeting, 










.12h 


Unbleached,yd. 


.08 


.10 


Eggs, doz. 


.31 


to 


Sheeting, 










.15 


Bleached, yd. 


.10 


.12 


Potatoes, bu. 


.95 


1.00 


Cotton Flannel, 












yd. 


.08 


Mi 


Meats 






Prints, yd. 


.07 


.061 


Beef, Roast, lb. 


.16 


.10 


Shoes 


1.76 


1.50 


Beef, Soup, lb. 


.08 


.05 








Beef, Steak, lb. 


.18 


.12i 


Rent 






Veal, Fore Qrtr., lb. 


.11 


.06 


4-Rooni Tene- 






Veal, Hind Qrtr., lb. 


.20 


.08 


ments, wk. 


1.10 


1.00 


Mutton, Fore Qrtr., 






6-Room Tene- 






lb. 


.10 


.10 


ments, wk. 


2.00 


1.50 


Mutton, Leg, lb. 
Pork, Fresh, lb. 


.16 
.14 


.12^ 
.10 


Board and J 


2.00 
to 


1.50 


Pork, Salt, lb. 


.14 


.10 


Lodging I 


3.00 





283 



APPENDIX D 



Weekly Wages paid in Seven North Carolina Mills, 1904 



Occupation 



Rate per 
Week 



Occupation 



Rate peb 

W BEK 



Picker Room 

Opener 
Picker Hand 
Card Hand 
Boss Carder 

Spinning Room 
Drawing Frame 
Slubber Hands 
Intermediate Hands 
Speeder Hands 
Spinners, $1.20 to $6 
Doffer, Head 
Doffers 
Spoolers 
Twisters 
Warpers 

Overseer of Spinning 
Section Hand 
Overseer of Twisting 
Band Boys 
Sweepers 
Oiler and Bander 



$4.50 
5.10 
4.50 

12.00 



4.50 
5.40 
6.40 
4.50 
3.001 
3.60 
2.40 
4.00 
4.80 
7.50 
10.50 
7.00 
7.00 
2.50 
3.60 
3.60 



Weaving Room 

Filler 
Creelers 
Beam Warper 
Slasher Tender 
Drawing-in Girls 
Weavers, $2.50 to 9 

Finishing Room 

Calendar 1 
Folder 1- 2 men 
Baler J 
Weave Boss 
Section Bosses 

Engineer 

Firemen 



$3.90 
4.00 
4.50 
6.00 
6.00 
5.401 



(6.00 
(4.50 

15.00 
8.40 
[7.50 
^ to 
L9.00 
6.00 



1 On account of variations in number and skill of these operatives 
the exact average wage is seldom the same for two successive weeks. 



284 



Holland Thompson was bom on the plan- 
tation of his grandfather in Randolph County, 
North Carolina, July 30, 1873. He was pre- 
pared for college by his father, and, after 
teaching two years in the rural schools, en- 
tered the University of North Carolina with 
advanced standing in 1892, and was gradu- 
ated in 1895 with special honors in English 
and History. For four years he was principal 
of the academy at Concord, North Carolina, 
but resigned to accept a fellowship in Political 
Economy in Columbia University. His minor 
subjects were Sociology and American History, 
and the degree of A.M. was conferred in 1900. 
In 1901 he became tutor in History in the 
College of the City of New York, and was 
made instructor in 1902. He has published : 
"The Tuscarora Conspiracy in Carolina," 
National Magazine of History, January, 1894; 
" Some Log Colleges in North Carolina," Pres- 
})yterian Quarterly, January, 1900 ; " Life in 
a Southern Mill Town," Political Science 



BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH 



Quarterly, March, 1900; "Some Effects of 
Industrialism on an Agricultural State," South 
Atlantic Quarterly, January, 1905. He con- 
tributed to the New International Encyclo- 
pedia and to Nelson's Encyclopedia, and for 
a time was on the staff of Current Literature.